movies

Godard: ‘I get high staring at posters in the streets. I get high on people.’

Note: Godard who has just finished shooting his lates film One Plus One, agreed to meet Hermine Demoriane for this interview but would not consent to it being recorded. “What you don’t remember, make up”, he said. Excerpts from the interview follow.

We have a lot of professional filmmakers who would be better off doing something else.

 

HD: You have said everybody should make movies.

JLG: No. I did not say that,  I said more people should. There are not enough films. Look, there is no black cinema at all. Stokely Charmichael should make a film. But he can’t. Even if Mao sent him the money he would not find a distributor. There aren’t any films from the workers, either. I’d like to hand over my unit, lock, stock and barrel and let some of them get on with it. We need films FROM people, not FOR them. In the meantime, we have a lot of professional filmmakers who would be better off doing something else.

HD: What do you think of Claude Givaudan’s experiment?

JLG: Very good. You should be able to go into a shop and buy the latest Godard, take it home and project it with no more fuss than reading a paperback. In two years time we may be putting cassettes of our own films into TV sets.

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HD: You have said England was an American colony. Does this apply to its films?

JLG: There are no English films. There are American films set in London.

HD: What do you think of American cinema, then?

JLG: The most conservative in the world. It works on worn-out formulas totally irrelevant today. Its only aim is to lift people out of their environment for a moment and persuade them the world is a beautiful place so they keep quiet and allow the system which begats such films to continue.

HD: You didn’t even like Bonnie and Clyde?

JLG: Average. Very average.

HD: And the cinema in France?

JLG: Very conservative, too.

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HD: What do you reckon is the way to break the monopoly of the big companies?

JLG: Either drop a bomb or them or buy them.

HD: You have just made a film for French TV. Would you like to do more?

JLG: I see no difference between cinema and TV films. I would like to make more, yes, but I doubt if they’d get shown. TV is governmental, and not only in France. Governments are always clever enough to take it over. Consequently TV would be the same in Cuba as it is in Greece. I think opposition parties should have an equal influence.

HD: Do you believe that hippies could be a force to purge Capitalism, as the Red Guards purged Soviet Communism?

JLG: The hippies will do nothing until they are politised.

HD: They need a Mao?

JLG: Not necessarily. Only to get educated politically.

HD: The demonstration at the first night of the Green Berets proves that something is burning.

JLG: Yes, that was excellent. I wish someone had told me, I would have gone.

HD: Do you think the uprising could come from England eventually?

JLG: Yes, it is good here because there are plenty of people with money and open minds. But alas, they don’t use their minds, and they are usually corrupted by money. People could do things but won’t. Look at the Beatles for instance. And Peter Brook. He should have put his Marat/Sade outside Buckingham Palace.

HD: Are you aware to have prophested Sorbonne in La Chinoise?

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JLG: No. Prophesy is a mild form of fascism.

HD: What about your next film?

JLG: It is going to be produced and shot in America. That’s all I know about it. Except the title. I’ve got that. An American Movie.

HD: Have you ever taken acid?

JLG: No. Not interested. I get high staring at posters in the streets. I get high on people.

HD: Exactly what my mother says. Thank you.

 

*Interview with Jean-Luc Godard by Hermine Demoriane, published in IT (International Times) no. 39, 6-19 September 1968

All About My Favorite Director: 5 Reasons why Pedro Almodóvar is a Creative Genius

Cannes Film Festival is about to begin, introducing the impressive selection of films competing in different categories with everyone’s attention especially directed towards the potential Palme d’Or and Grand Prix winners.  What makes the 70th edition of the most acclaimed European film festival even more exciting is that Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodóvar  has been named president of the jury, becoming the first Spaniard to be given that honor.  The prolific director has had six of his films shown at Cannes throughout the last two decades, winning the best director prize for All About My Mother (1999) and best screenplay for Volver (2006).

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Even though his films are exclusively in Spanish, that didn’t stop them from getting worldwide recognition from both critics and the audience. What is so appealing and unique about Almodóvar’s films that makes everyone who has seen at least one always come back for more? I’ll try to break down the director’s trademark characteristics in 5 key points.

 

Every genre is his genre

The problem is that I work in more than one genre. It’s impossible for me to aim for a single one because, for me, comedy is mixed with tragedy. That’s very Spanish, the way in which comedy and tragedy are inextricable from each other.

Transferring his eclectic taste into movies turned out to be a big creative success.  There are no  boundaries in Almodóvar’s stories, the viewer is often surprised by the way in which the story is developing. Also, his films are a great example of how the art of movie making is all about freedom of expression and having fun while creating the amusing plots and characters. This blend of genres is evident in every period of Almodóvar ‘s career- the early love stories mixed with provocative eroticism and political statements, to his newer films that contain mystery,  thriller, black comedy and horror elements. No one incorporates romance and suspense as skillfully as Almodóvar  resulting in emotional romantic thrillers like Broken Embraces or mystery melodrama Volver. 

 

 Memorable female characters

I feel that I can tell a richer and more entertaining story with women.

It’s not jut that he puts women in the spotlight as main protagonists, he makes them believable and goes well beneath the superficial explanations of what drives a character to act the way she does. Penélope Cruz, one of Almodóvar’s favorite actresses praised him as someone who perfectly understands the female universe and makes them feel protected so that is why she enjoys collaborating with him. The key of this capability stems from director’s childhood experiences,  he explained many times that he grew up surrounded by powerful, strong women.

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During the promotion of his latest feature Julieta, the Spanish filmmaker criticized Hollywood for sexism and not creating enough complex roles for women of all ages. On the other hand, some of his critics say he focuses on women too much, while his heterosexual male characters seem questionable and incomplete.

 

Visual style

Almodóvar’s filmmaking style may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but no one can deny that he has an amazing sense for details and using colors as an important addition to storytelling. Quirky characters are not based solely on their dialogues and expression, the visual representation means a lot in how the viewers interpret their actions. The first example I think of is Lucia from black comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown whose mental instability was emphasized by over the top make up and costumes, turning her into hilarious, almost grotesque character.

Almodóvar has never been afraid of using ‘too much’ color, he openly flirts with elements of kitsch evoking traditional Spanish culture,  but in a modern, progressive environment. Through years of making movies he learned how to control those exaggerated visuals in order to improve the film’s plot, but has continue to  employ the bright colors, no matter if it’s the clothes, make up, lightning, a chair, a telephone, etc.  The trademark of the majority of his work is the use of red which is directly connected to everything is so typically Spanish, but also draws attention to specific details, creating a tense atmosphere, and  simply works out so well in front of the camera. One of Almodóvar’s  most successful international features Everything about my Mother is the best illustration of the power of red. It represents strong, bold women and their life stories through dealing with broken relationships, love, motherhood, friendship, loss, etc.

 

Breaking the taboos

As much as he is not scared of colors, the Spanish filmmaker also doesn’t stray away from the unusual and hidden parts of human nature. A part from that, he creates space for characters who were in most cases pushed away from the mainstream – the homosexuals, transsexuals, transvestites. Ever since his debut 1980 film Pepi, Luci, and Bom Almodóvar  has been promoting artistic, individual and sexual freedom, questioning the social conventions and tackling stereotypes. It is impossible to forget elements like Gael Garcia Bernal’s transgender character Zahara and dealing with sexual abuse in Bad Education,  the deconstruction of identity in All about My Mother, challenging mother stereotypes in Volver, getting involved with the creepyness and obsessions in The Skin I live in, or experiencing painful feelings of guilt in Julieta.

Another important element is humor that is born out of unexpected, absurd, generally considered tragic situations showing the importance of context, for example the rape scene in Kika, or suicide attempt in High Heels. Despite of these chaotic events, the viewer continues to form emotional bonds and empathy towards the fabulously eccentric characters and that is what makes Almodóvar ‘s work authentic.

 

  The choice of music

It’s no secret that films in general wouldn’t be nearly as exciting and touching if they weren’t accompanied by music, so it’s no surprise that Almodóvar  doesn’t leave anything to chance in this department. He carefully chooses songs by his own preferences and is often led not by the artistic quality of music, but its references and emotional value. Original soundtracks for his movies have become hits of their own thanks to the collaboration with talented composer Alberto Iglesias.

Some of Almodóvar’s films are so strongly connected to their soundtrack that after watching them, we automatically connect actors and characters with a certain song proving music is inseparable from narration. When I think of the closing scenes of Talk to Her, I immediately hear the music, the dancing couples gliding through the stage appear afterwards. The most recognizable scenes have become so popular precisely for their musical intervals, like the incredible tunnel scene from All about My Mother which stays with you long after you’ve seen the film or Penélope Cruz owning that melancholic musical scene in Volver. For me, the most rememberable due to not only music, but costumes and incredible acting abilities is Gael Garcia Bernal’s performance of Quizas in Bad Education. 

 

Originally posted on Creators.co

 

 

 

Honoring Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a Vampire Movie Chronology

As soon as it seems we have seen it all when it comes to vampire thematic, a new movie or series comes out proving that, just like its characters, the genre is immortal.  To honor Bram Stoker, an author best known for his gothic horror novel Dracula which actually paved a way for vampires entering the popular culture, I created this historic overview of the most interesting. Each one features pale, more or less attractive blood sucking mythological creatures who keep inspiring filmmakers and attracting the audience’s attention.

Stoker died on the 20th of April 1912, but his legacy lives on, although some of the vampires we have gotten used to today are nowhere near the original book version of count Dracula who is described as a thin, old, white-haired predator with sharp teeth and pointy ears.

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Book cover by Laura Birdsall

Nosferatu (1922)

First we go way back in time to Germany and F.W. Morneau’s adaptation of Stoker’s novel. The character’s names and some facts and locations have been altered because the film studio didn’t manage to obtain the rights for the use of original Dracula content. After finding out about the movie, Stoker’s widow filed a lawsuit against the creators of Nosferatu and demanded that all of the copies need to be destroyed. Luckily, some of them were copied, saved and managed to survive. Even after all those years, Count Orlok  (Max Schreck) remains one of the most chilling characters on-screen, he is so convincing that many viewers at the time thought he could be a vampire in real life as well. An absolute must see for true horror movie lovers, especially if you can get your hands on the restored Blu – ray edition.

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Dracula (1931)

This is an official version, the one that had no lawsuit and copyright issues. More importantly, it features the legendary actor Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, the role that marked his career forever. Also, Lugosi’s thick Eastern European accent influenced the future portrayals of the character in the same manner, turning it into one of the most recognizable Dracula’s features, even though the novel description clearly states his English was flawless. Lugosi’s deep voice, clean-shaven face with not much make up and simple elegant clothes have become a mandatory part of the iconic Dracula portrayal that would be copied and used as a reference for many generations to come. Apparently, at first he wasn’t Universal’s first casting choice, could you imagine that?

 

 

The Return of the Vampire (1943)

The 1931 horror classic has turned Bela Lugosi into a star, but it was also the one he couldn’t escape from as he continued to get typecast for the rest of his career. This was supposed to be a Dracula sequel, but due to possible copyright problems and lawsuit threats, the names were changed even though everything else remained familiar. As a  cool fun fact it should be noted that this is the first movie ever that features both vampires and werewolves in it.

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Lust of the Vampire (1957)

The plot of this Italian horror movie (I Vampiri is the original title) takes a different turn as it doesn’t revolve around the classic vampire monster antagonist. Instead, there is a mad scientist who kills young women and draws blood which his lover uses in order to stay alive and maintain a youthful appearance. This the debut film for Italian master of horror Mario Bava who didn’t get credited as a director because he continued the work startted by Ricardo Fredda who left before it was finished. Here you’ll get to appreciate Bava’s talent in creating amazing visual effects, knowing how to properly use lightning and creating a chilling atmosphere.

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Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

It would be impossible to go through this list without mentioning the Hammer Horror Film series who’s first three sequels were all directed by Terrence Fisher. Also, this series brought the iconic role to Christopher Lee,the second most famous Dracula of the 20th century‘. For the first time he appeared as the mysterious Count in 1958 adaptation of Stoker’s novel, for some reason skipped the following Brides of Dracula, and then came back for the Prince of Darkness.  This part of the franchise is particularly interesting because Dracula doesn’t really speak, he only hisses, and the reason? Christopher Lee claimed he refused to talk in the movie because the lines sucked, while the screenwriter Jimmy Sangster said it was his idea, that he didn’t even write any lines for Dracula because vampires don’t chat. Even if the lines were THAT bad, that didn’t stop the legendary actor from taking the Count Dracula role in 8 more movies.

 

 

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

The 70’s era delivered some classic adaptations, but also a whole range of really weird vampire inspired movies like Love at First Bite and Dracula Sucks, taking the genre to a whole new level.  To completely step away from the original Dracula plot, I chose another title from the Hammer Film Company – The Vampire Lovers. This one is inspired by the story that was written earlier than Stoker’s novel, it deals with not only vampires, but includes eroticism as well. It means there’s nudity and lesbian sex scenes, while vampires are no longer ugly, but sexy and seductive. Placed in the 19th century Austria, the plot centres around beautiful female vampire who is constantly looking for new victims. Even though the movie can’t be declared a masterpiece, it has gathered a cult following among horror fans.

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The Lost Boys (1987)

There’s horror, there’s comedy and there’s some romance and awesome soundtrack in this Joel Schumacher‘s movie, and it all works pretty well together.  Three teenagers and their mom move to a small town in California where they hear rumors about vampires and mysterious deaths that could be connected to them. At first they think those are just funny stories, but after one of the brothers starts behaving suspiciously, it’s time to get serious. I love the make up and special effects, the bloody and gore scenes look convincing, especially when you consider it’s an 80’s movie. A great cast and an entertaining, modern approach towards the ‘vampire’ subject makes this one definitely worth watching.

 

 

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

The 90’s offer another gothic, back to roots view of the genre in Coppola’s 1992 Dracula or luxurious blockbuster Interview with the Vampire, but my favorite work from the decade lies on the other end of the spectrum. I am not a George Clooney fan, but nevertheless, Seth Gecko remains one of my favorite movie characters ever. Over the top, violent, rude, not afraid to be trashy, those are the characteristics of many Robert Rodriguez’s movies. Two brothers who have just robbed a bank and are on their way to Mexico. A father and his two kids are going on a holiday in their RV until the Gecko’s take them hostage and they manage to pass the border all together. When they make a stop in a bar, after sunset they realize they will have to fight for their lives… What I love about From Dusk Till Dawn are the creative dialogues, humor and ridiculous gore moments. And of course, that Selma Hayek scene.

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Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Probably the one that stands out the most from the list, and it’s no wonder since it’s Jim Jarmusch‘s take on vampirism and the meaning of life. In its specific way, it is a great contribution to the genre. Even vampires struggle with existential crisis, get depressed and worry about the future of our society. This is not really a horror, but not really a typical romantic film or drama, neither sex or violence are at its core, the most important place is reserved for cultural references that could be found everywhere. The pace is slow, but amazing cast, soundtrack, atmosphere and dialogue keep the viewer focused throughout every minute. Movie lovers and pop culture enthusiasts will know how to appreciate it. If I had to choose living as a movie character for the rest of my life, that would be Eve (Tilda Swinton) from Only Lovers Left Alive.

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Originally published on Creators.co

 

Bubble Trouble

There are people who ‘get it’, also there are people who just don’t,  no matter how much you try to explain something.  I’m the one that likes all the best stuff – the best films, TV shows, books… If I stumble upon a classic movie that is praised by everyone, finally watch it and get disappointed because it didn’t live up to all the hype, I’ll tell you it’s overrated and worthless because my opinion truly matters, and if you don’t agree with me…

Well, you are entitled to your opinion and I respect that, but I will secretly judge you because I KNOW STUFF, I GET STUFF better than you do.

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This is an exaggeration of course, I’m not really a delusional narcissist, at least not a serious one.  I’m sure everyone has similar thoughts occasionally, even when we’re unaware of it.  We are born with a self-defence mechanism that keeps us in a bubble which helps us maintain confidence in our intellectual capacity and skills. Some bubbles are thicker, some are very fragile, they vary from being stable or changing from time to time. For instance, you know those days when you feel like things are perfectly falling into their place and with a little effort and focus, you can do whatever you set your mind to… and then there are the dog days when the gut keeps telling you it’s just not worth it, you’re going to die anyway, etc.

A piece of art about nothing

Nothing is everything. Experiences and routines we go through every day, people we meet and talk to, casual coffee breaks, business lunches, awkward first dates, sleepy late TV nights, not so casual sex encounters… Whatever you go through on a daily basis can be turned into a story for a broad audience.

In modern TV era no one had done it better than Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Seinfeld will stay forever relevant because it deals with those little daily ‘nothingness’ moments that can be so familiar. Even if you’re not a comedian who lives in NYC and hangs out with three equally crazy friends who are all, just like you, incapable of forming meaningful relationships while getting into absurd situations, and… oh well, you get it, even then, those Seinfeld stories seem ridiculously close and personal.  When the series came to an end after nine amusing seasons, Larry David placed himself in front of the camera, but this time in a much more aggressive and politically incorrect version starring in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Some even consider the show better than Seinfeld, but I can’t fully agree even though I enjoy every minute of it. I’ll never stop rewatching Seinfeld whether I’m going through each episode starting from the beginning, or just clicking on a random one, but sometimes you need to move on. I think Curb Your Enthusiasm is the answer as it represents a natural follow-up for every Seinfeld fan which comes in a more direct, more absurd, hard-boiled form.

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I have seen some of the Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld’s way of creating a talk show with famous guests by literally driving them in a car, talking, then stopping at a coffee shop where they continue to, you guessed it, talk. I mentioned this to a friend who watched a Larry David as a guest episode and asked me ‘what the fuck was this all about, they’re just having a random conversation about basically nothing. And then it ends. And that’s it.’

Why is nothing bad? Why can’t nothing be enough? Of course it can, Seinfeld is a big pile of nothing in particular, but it didn’t stop it from rewriting the history of TV sitcoms. Obviously, there are people who ‘get it’ and those who don’t, no matter what.

This brings me to a completely different genre of films that are very important to me.  I hear people complaining a bunch of times about Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise – Before Sunset – Before Midnight trilogy being overrated because, as it’s written in the plot description:

‘The plot is considered minimalistic, as not much happens aside from walking and talking.’

And then it ends. And that’s it. What some people don’t like or don’t want to realise is that walking and talking can be more than enough. Whenever I watch any part of it, I am left with a big smile on my face overshadowed by melancholic yearning towards something or someone I have not necessarily met. Sometimes it’s clear to me that what I’m feeling is a complex set of mixed emotions towards a fictional construction, like living in a parallel universe for a while. I guess it’s because I strongly  identify myself with Céline, a character played by Julie Delpy, an actress who deserves a separate post so I won’t start going on about her right now. She is a careful romantic, kind of awkward because she thinks and (sometimes annoyingly) overthinks stuff and desperately looks for a conclusion even if the question is not easy or even impossible to answer. Completely rational and irrational and dreamy at the same time, that’s what draws me in every time, I guess.

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My conclusion would be, after years of trying to explain things I like to people I like in a way that doesn’t suit them doesn’t really make sense. If a couple just walking and going through all kinds of banal and complicated topics while contemplating the meaning of life and relationships isn’t someone’s cup of tea, what can you do? Tell them they are missing something very important? Tell them there’s more to movies than adrenaline packed action thrillers or dumb romantic comedies? No. We find what we like or it finds us eventually, it’s not that the other’s ‘don’t get it’, they just ‘get’ things differently and there’s nothing wrong with that as much as I would like to scream otherwise. 

Chin up, make sure your bubble stays strong, but peak out every once in a while to see more clearly what’s really going on.

 

Quentin Tarantino’s Badass Female Characters

Gender pay gap, hyper sexual objectification, dumbing down of female characters, lack of quality screenplays for women, these are just some of the issues film industry is still dealing with. Lately it seems things are moving forward as more actresses are candidly speaking up about the problems they are facing and bringing them to international spotlight.

Although Quentin Tarantino holds an image of the ‘enfant terrible’ of American cinema, his movies are often labeled as too violent, brutal and unnecessary bloody, he is also one of the most important modern directors and screenwriters. In opposition to all the violence and hundreds of gallons of blood , there is an interesting fact I appreciate very much – when you ask someone to name five iconic characters from Tarantino’s films, more than half would most certainly be female. Intelligent, cool, independent, strong, sometimes very dangerous, sometimes caring and sensual, we admired them all. Who would have thought after Reservoir Dogs came out that Tarantino would become a sort of a feminist hero.

To honour the Hollywood’s favorite ‘basterd’ on his 54th birthday I am bringing you some of his most remembered heroines that continue to inspire.

Jackie Brown

Aw, the milk went bad while I was in jail.
This is his third film, but the first in which Tarantino decided to place a woman in the lead, and oh, what a wonderful decision he made. During the ’90s period actress Pam Grier was used to appearing in smaller roles, but came back in style with a captivating performance in crime thriller Jackie Brown where she managed to outshine acting legends like Robert DeNiro and Samuel L. Jackson. Jackie is a middle-aged flight attendant who is actually working for a gun dealer Ordell Robbie by smuggling money across the border. After she gets caught, Jackie agrees to cooperate with the police in order to catch Ordell and avoid jail time. At the same time, she realizes her crazy boss wants to kill her, so that’s when she comes up with a not so simple plan… Smart, daring and charming woman who doesn’t want to depend on anyone, that’s why Jackie Brown will always deserve an important place on a groundbreaking female roles lists.
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 Shosanna Dreyfus

My name is Shosanna Dreyfus and THIS is the face… of Jewish vengeance!

Tarantino made Inglorious Basterds so that he could play with the darkest part of the 20th century and deliver his version of WWII events in his distinctive, attractive way. The key character is Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a young Jewish woman who happens to be the only surviving member of her family that was murdered by Nazi’s. Years after the soldiers found them in their hiding place and committed a bloodbath, she meets a German war hero and gets an idea for a revenge plot with a goal to kill the Nazi top commanders like Hitler and Goebbels. Her will power and fearlessness is astounding, along with her ability to keep focus on the way of reaching her final objective.

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Mia Wallace

Three tomatoes are walking down the street-a poppa tomato, a momma tomato, and a little baby tomato. Baby tomato starts lagging behind. Poppa tomato gets angry, goes over to the baby tomato, and smooshes him… and says, Catch up.
This small tribute can’t be completed without HER, the ultimate style icon and every girl’s dream Halloween costume choice. Uma Thurman and Tarantino surely had a special chemistry between them on the set, and we can all be grateful for that. She is not a main protagonist, but is the most recognizable one, her face is the visual and spiritual representation of Pulp Fiction. Mia is a mobster Marsellus Wallace’s wife who wanted to be an actress, is totally in love with Amsterdam, smokes a lot and also likes to snort cocaine. Her style is simple, but seductive, she is smart, has a great sense of humour and she’s definitely got a way with words. And as you already know, she can dance like no other.
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Zoë Bell

You guys look like shit. Who died?

One of the leads in Death Proof, maybe not Tarantino’s most acclaimed work, but certainly the most ‘girl power’ statement movie . Also, Zoë is the only one starring under her real name because she is actually playing herself – an energetic, talented stunt double who made me want to get out more and get involved in a sports activity for a change. Tarantino was amazed by the skills she presented while doubling for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and how could he not be – just remember those crazy adrenaline-filled Death Proof scenes where she’s strapped on the hood of a speeding car. Zoë also appeared in other Tarantino’s works: Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, showing a range of talent, breaking stereotypes and just staying true to her cool, bold presence.

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The Bride

Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.

Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), code name Black Mamba is one of the greatest action movie characters of all times which means a lot because that kind of roles are usually reserved for male actors only. She is a former member of an elite team of extremely well-trained assassins who finally wakens from four years spent in a coma after she was shot in the head by her former boss and lover called Bill. Kiddo creates a list of former colleagues who have betrayed her and begins her ruthless mission of killing every one of them showing impressive fighting skills along the way. Her dynamic, blood soaked quest for vengeance is divided into two volumes, culminating in an epic ending. That kind of firm determination in a character is rarely seen and has to be appreciated, Kiddo is passionate and dangerous, scary, but makes you sympathize with her after all the trauma she’s been through. Finally, the list of awesome women who are not afraid to attack first is what gives this movie a big credit in establishing a different kind of a female presence on the big screen, showing everyone that women can kick ass, as well.

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Originally posted on MoviePilot

Lust for Life

I slept over at a friend’s place and forgot to take my contact lenses off last night. And my mascara as well.  A thousand dry, itchy blinks later, I’m home drinking lemon balm tea which is known for its calming effects. At the same time there’s another cup in front of me, I’m also having morning coffee leftovers. Last sip of tea, I’m still very thirsty and in desperate need for more tea or a tall glass of water, but no, my mind goes blank: Hey, have some salty pretzels! Naturally, these pretzels are making me (even more) thirsty. While devouring the last drops of coffee with a bitter taste in my mouth, I’m thinking how in three hours time I’ll be able to celebrate the impressive 24 hours of not washing my teeth. During that period, I drank tea, ate pizza and french fries, smoked a pack of Lucky Strikes, a couple of beers and two (I think) gin tonics. Usually, I’m really conscientious about personal hygiene and eat lots of vegetables so don’t judge.

Yesterday evening before going out I’ve seen Trainspottingnot the sequel but the 1996 original. I keep postponing the sequel watching due to a cool mix of nostalgia and unexplainable fear of the future. What does it have to do with a random movie sequel? I don’t really know, it’s just as close as I am able to describe how I feel.  Location – my favourite old cinema in  town which has been turning the best idea ever into reality with adding old(er) classics to their programme (I’ve already seen Taxi Driver and The Wizard of Oz).

So, back to Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy, Spud and Tommy, the characters we hate to love and love to hate. From the intro to the end, every scene, every conversation, every character’s quirk, vice and gruesome activity is epic. The ‘heroes of my youth’ grinning, swearing, shitting and injecting heroin on the big screen, all accompanied with hands down one the best movie soundtracks ever, music growling from the speakers in perfectly arranged intervals.  No matter how many times I’ve already seen Trainspotting, it just doesn’t get any less exciting, touching or funny.

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After leaving the cinema, I stood on the street among people for a bit, lit the cigarette and kept thinking about the holy trinity: David Bowie – Lou Reed –  Iggy Pop, and how any movie containing their music couldn’t be bad even if it actually was.

During my rebellious, curious teenage years, I was prone to thinking of Trainspotting as a film that glorifies drug use and junkie lifestyle, it was a form of a forbidden fruit, cool in a weird way and that’s what I was drawn to. Now I’m experiencing things much differently, I laugh and cringe at particular scenes… It is a sad story at the times, tragic but hilarious, imbued with tons of cynicism. Also, this sounds like a definition of a black comedy, but that categorization doesn’t do the justice to this movie, not even close.

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I was relieved to realize that this cult work was and will always remain important to me; even though we all change through the years and outgrow things every day, the core, the quality pieces we collect through our lives remain the same. The same as in we appreciate them equally, but from a very different angle. The variety of perspectives is why it’s fun to be an art loving human in the first place while listening to music, reading, watching movies, admiring paintings or sculptures… the content comes to us in different shapes and each mind reshapes the artist’s view in their own way.

Ok,  I’m about to make a sugar-free lemonade, no more coffee today!  This means I’m thinking of improving myself on so many levels right now. Today I’m going to eat  fruit instead of junk food, brush my teeth a couple of times to compensate, wash out the smoke from my hair, sweat and beer from the clothes and nonsense from my mind.

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Things and opinions can change, but my crush on Sick Boy is forever.

Crazy for Godard

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There are movies you can watch with one eye closed, while texting your crush or thinking about your grocery list. There are movies you can watch with a bunch of friends and comment, laugh, talk about something else for a while, get up to get some more popcorn. There are movies who don’t demand your full attention, they are here to present a certain plot and try to entertain you while on the greater scale their sole purpose is to earn as much money as possible and then fall into the oblivion. Everyone who had at least a brief encounter with Jean-Luc Godard‘s movies is aware, of course, that this is not the case.

The average mind raised on the typical American style cinematography will get confused after five minutes, get bored after twenty and is most likely to give up from watching the movie after 45 minutes. But that’s no surprise and doesn’t mean that the average mind is stupid or uneducated. Godard’s work is an acquired taste, the one that when/if the viewer accepts it and gets to know it, falls in love more and more until you start looking at the everyday life scenes through Jean-Luc’s glasses.

That started happening to me after I watched Une femme est Une Femme (A woman is a Woman, 1961), my first Godard experience. I was a bit puzzled at first but it was love at first sight – the story, Anna Karina, Belmondo, the clothes, dialogue, colors, language… Freedom! Freedom is the key, freedom from the overpayed, overplayed, predictable script, nonchalant deconstruction of what is considered ‘normal’ or ‘succesful’. Godard himself says it all in one simple sentence:

“Improvising on the set is different from faithfully following the script.”

C’est vrai.

The last one I’ve (re) watched is also one of the most important French new wave titles – Pierrot le Fou (Pierrot Goes Wild, 1965).  It’s one of those movies that stuck with me and will always be important, also this time I had a chance to watch it in the cinema, on the big screen. What an experience, not even drunk people talking pretty loudly or leaving in the middle of the film couldn’t spoil the good feels and my overall excitement. If an extraterrestrial finally visits our beautiful planet one day, I suggest playing Pierrot for him/her/? to explain what ART means. You can’t define it in one word, it can be completely subjective, but once you come across it, you know it’s here.

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What I like the most about this film is the criticism towards Americanization, war and consumerism. We are so obsessed with things and accumulating stuff we don’t really need. We all know that, we’ve seen Fight Club for god’s sake, but still we remain clueless. I’m looking for winter coats online as we speak and I get that adrenaline rush because I’m in a hurry to pick the PERFECT one, the one that DEFINES me and at the same time I hate myself for it, but also can’t help it. Ridiculous, it’s like being stuck in between two worlds. That’s why artist that present sober critics to their public need to be even more appreciated. They are not just artists who create something for themselves and a small circle of people, they represent the state of society in general. Through the words, music, images and beautiful or funny scenes they can comfort us, but also implement a warning sign in our mind that something needs to be changed.

Like all great works of art, Pierrot le Fou is still very much relevant, I always laugh at the statement:

“Now we are entering the age of the ass.”

We are very much in that age and it seems like we will be in it for a while longer, don’t we? It’s hard to come out and look up, I guess.

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To conclude, i really think everyone should find some free time and dedicate it to watching good, classic movies, and not just so they can boast about it and act all ‘intellectual’ in front of others, it should be completely opposite, actually. Watching Godard helps me create my own little world, draw inspiration from it and learn. Finding out that  improvisation can coexist with author’s  control over  his work and what he’s trying to achieve is something I didn’t know before Godard, and now I very much appreciate. It is the unique pleasure of letting the viewer feel whatever he wants to, find his own way through the two hour movie watching experience without pulling his hand like he’s a kid about to get lost in the shopping mall. Let him get lost on purpose to find something new and exciting, that is the goal.

There are many little joys we all need to give our life true meaning, the memory of coming out of the cinema, snapping my fingers while singing quietly Ma ligne de chance is and always will be among my favourite instant mood boosters. And the best part is, I have yet to discover the rest of the ‘nouvelle vague’ familly – Truffaut, Chabroul, Rivette….

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FIN.

Reservoir Dogs & the Aestheticization of Violence

What I’m about to post is an English translation of a part of the favourite essay I have written by now. I chose this topic as an assignment for a class called Media and Violence. The essay is all about my favourite American director Quentin Tarantino, also, this particular piece of it focuses mostly on the analysis of screen violence and it’s influence on the viewer in Tarantino’s first-born, the legendary Reservoir Dogs. The main question inflicts itself: was all that blood really necessary?

The formal expression most commonly attributed to the work of director Quentin Tarantino is the aestheticization of violence. The inevitable violence is also the central  topic for the biggest critics and those who disapprove his work. The term aestheticization of violence includes all kinds of violent behaviour or images that suggest violence in high culture and mass media; violence which is presented in movies, fashion, TV shows and the rest of the media world.

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Tarantino as Mr. Brown in Reservoir Dogs

When it comes to art, the aestheticization of violence and death is very much present since the early age, especially in the western culture. Why has violence always been such an important part of art, cultural critic Susan Sontag explains as the universal human desire for images of pain and violence, it is the same as our universal desire for looking at the naked bodies. Sontag also thinks that people feel a certain amount of satisfaction while watching that kind of content because they feel they can take it without wanting to look away. In case they do look away, they feel satisfied, but in a different way. Kind of like a win-win situation.

Of course, an abundance of violent scenes is not something typical for Tarantino’s movies only, there is a great number of directors who use it, I will mention the most memorable ones like David Lynch, Guy Richie and Ridley Scott. Hollywood cinematography is present in the entire world, produces the most violent movies, but also attributes most to the aestheticization and presentation of violence as a form of artistic expression.

The critics have different opinions about the aesthetics of violence, there are two main theories most of the talk about: the habituation theory and the catharsis theory. The habituation theory suggest that the more we consume violent content in movies or TV shows, we decrease our sensibility to violence, violent behaviour becomes normal and usual to us. It is often presumed that movie violence is superficial and senseless, it is used only to get the attention, and eventually has a negative influence on the audience who’s members can become violent themselves.

The opposed side considers violence to be a part of the content, important asset to the movie’s plot, it has a chatartic effect on the viewer who’s tendency for violent behaviour decreases. Australian movie critic Adrian Martin defends and explains  the use of violence in the movies:  „ … violence on-screen is not real and mustn’t be confused with real life violence. Movie violence is fun, spectacular, acted, it is a dramatic metaphor. (…) It has gone through its historical changes,  has its codes, precise aesthetic benefits.”

Now it’s time to apply the theory through the examples, and my first pick was my favourite Tarantino movie which was also his first, break through project from 1992 – Reservoir Dogs.

This influential piece of independent movie history tells a seemingly simple story: it begins with eight men who don’t know each other (they don’t even reveal their names or anything about their identity) who have planned a diamond robbery, but the whole deal doesn’t really go as smoothly as they’ve expected. Nonlinear narrative combined with many gore, bloody scenes leads the viewer through the story and gets him to know the characters.

Those violent scenes and extent use of profanities were the reason for a big discussion right after the movie premiered. While some were impressed with the scenery and amazing acting performances, some scenes were too much to handle for a part of the audience.  The scene that cause the biggest ‘fuss’ is the one with Mr. Blonde (played by Michael Madsen) dancing and having loads of fun while brutally torturing a policeman by cutting his ear off. On many occasions the viewers would leave the cinema because of this particular scene. On the other hand, it has become one of the iconic scenes of the modern cinema, along with the song Stuck in the Middle with You performed by the Stealers Wheel.

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The infamous ‘ear scene’ with Michael Madsen

Tarantino’s answer to the numerous question about how Reservoir Dogs could inspire the increase of violence among its viewers went a little like this: Well, you can’t arrest me for something some pussy could do after he watches the movie. The moment when artists are blamed for stuff like that, that doesn’t have anything to do with art anymore.

Along with that, there are also negative comments concerning political (in)correctness – the movie is filled with aggressive racist dialogs, demeaning conversations towards women, and there’s also an important fact – there is not a single female role in the movie. To explain the racist part, all the criminals are white males, in this case they are the ones who have adopted the cool gangster image.

Verbal violence and overuse of profanities has become a common trade of Tarantino’s movies, in Reservoir Dogs he implemented swear words wherever it was possible (fuck is pronounced 269 times), we could assume it was his way of attracting attention and desire to bring something new to the crime movie genre. At the time those movies were getting less and less popular, Tarantino is the one that renovated the genre and brought it back to life. The critics love to say that Tarantino glorifies violence, tries to make it seem appealing, but closer look at those stylized scenes and pop culture references bring us to a different conclusion. Violent scenes are exaggerated, choreographed, attention consuming, but they are very far from reality.

Stylization that is created on exaggeration and repetition keeps  the viewer  in the safe distance, the difference between the real  and imaginary world is very clear. We have our world on one side, and Tarantino’s creations on the other. If you appreciate his creation, enjoy it, if not, don’t watch it and just let him be.

Are you talking to me?

The days go on and on… they don’t end. All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. I don’t believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention, I believe that one should become a person like other people.

Time to go back and start all over again from the topic I love the most – the movies. I always think about what I’m going to watch next, what movies are already waiting on my laptop, what directors I have yet to discover… You have the classics, golden age of Hollywood, new stuff that got good reviews, franchises, undiscovered cinematic  treausures…. I have to make a plan to follow a certain interest of mine or on a day when I’m feeling adventurous, I just make a random pick. My favourites, besides  well-known american movies (especially from the 70s and 80s), are Spanish/South American and French movies. I’m still discovering different countries and their movie scene, it’s an interesting journey. Of course I’m in love with Jean-Luc Godard and nouvelle vague effortlessly beautiful goddess Anna Karina (who was born in Denmark and I also have a thing for Danish cinematography, but I will leave that for another post).

I will go back once more, this time to the 1970s New York, more precisely 1976 when a young directing genius Martin Scorsese with a help of even younger screenwriter Paul Schrader created a cult classic Taxi Driver. Oh man, those were the great times to be a movie junkie, the beginnings of Robert DeNiro’s cynical smile that makes you love him and be afraid of him at the same time. There’s no need to discuss his choices in movies he appears in these days, but you know what, he gets so much credit from me only for his roles in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, he can do whatever the hell he wants to.

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This weekend a local movie theater, one of the most beautiful cultural oasis in Croatia started a monthly event of screening an important movie classics, the opening was reserved for, you guessed it, DeNiro’s grin and anxiety ridden Travis Bickle.  The place was packed, completely sold out which is a big enough statement on its own.

The short introduction started with a woman talking about the first appearance of this film on the big screen back in ’76 and how Croatian audience went crazy for it, those same seats we are sitting in were occupied for 4 months. One of the fun facts I learned about is that while filming during the heathwave in New York, the town’s street sweepers and garbage collectors were on a strike so the scenery is completely authentic. All it combined, the roughness of the city and series of weird, striking faces that portray all kinds of criminal, low-life, marginalized characters gives a viewer an uncensored, realistic, edgy feel about the story. I read somewhere that at the time 26-year old Paul Schrader spent weeks isolated and alone while writing the script, he used that experience of loneliness and lack of real human contact to create one of the most influential pop culture characters of the 20th century.

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I’ve watched Taxi driver two times before plus that one time that I watched only the most important bits but I don’t count it as a real movie experience. How did it feel this time? Fucking awesome! Once again I was blown away by the 14-year old Jodie Foster’s performance, made laugh by the over the top pimpin’ style of Harvey Keitel, appreciated Scorsese’s cameo and so on… Seeing a restored version of the still scary relevant masterpiece (not only did it stand the test of time, but becomes even more contemporary!) in my favourite old cinema was an epic experience. Also,  I’m glad I went alone to be able to enjoy it without the inevitable small talk afterwards, because what is there really left to comment?

Boom!

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Be excited, be creative!!

Ever since I started a project of my own I am aware that I overuse the word CREATIVITY and add ‘she/he is such a creative person’ to describe the people I’m collaborating with. Why do I do that even though I often feel a hint of disgust even after first three-letter C… R… E… ughhh, no I can’t do that, think of something else for god’s sake!

Don’t get me wrong, I love creative people, I love being around them, learning from them, even copying them but not in an illegal douchebaggy way, or at least I hope. The problem with my generation is that we have a lot of time on our hands. When I say ‘we’, I’m talking about European or Northern American privileged young adults who are pretty much broke, but we still live pretty comfortable lives when compared to… you know, the rest of the world. Like I said, a  lot of time combined with access to cultural, artistic, cinematic, etc. experiences from all over the world results in a bunch of individuals who see themselves as modern artsy gods, creative geniuses who’s talent, although not yet discovered should be rewarded by the cruel society. Pretty much thousands of Van Goghs wandering around on Instagram, collecting followers who worship their perfectly aligned photos of morning coffee and bagel next to an overly expensive Mac laptop, or ‘innovative’ fashion escapades inspired by the Kardashian clan, or on the opposite side of the internet sphere – tiny Lolita’s with their petite features giving advice on vegan diet and yoga practises… I could go on forever, if you ever used Instagram, you know what I’m talking about, the stereotypes that we are all becoming a part of. It’s an inflation of people who want to be special, recognized and in the end, famous. The lifestyle, maaan, it’s all about the lifestyle. Of course I get jealous sometimes, but the more perfect the photos, the more suspicious I get when I think about it. And when I don’t think about it, I just scroll through it and  forget about most of the stuff I’ve seen, there’s just too much information, your brain can’t process all the visual stimulation it receives during the day.

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source: incrediblethings.com

I think of myself as a creative person, but maybe not in a conventional way. That doesn’t mean I’m special, au contraire, I am a part of the group with the most members: people who enjoy, appreciate and consume art without having a real talent. I draw stuff, write poems, take photos (who doesn’t these days) but there’s nothing special about it, and even more importantly, I don’t feel the need to share it with a great number of people. Regardless, art is and always will be a great part of my life.

In Woody Allen’s Vicky, Christina, Barcelona Scarlett Johansson plays Christina, a reckless young girl who is not sure about what she wants from life, the only thing she knows is what she doesn’t want. I very much sympathise with that. She also says at one point that she needs to accept the fact that she is not gifted, although she can appreciate art and feels she has a lot to express. She turned out to be a talented photographer, but she had a good mentor, a true artist kind of type. Maybe that’s what we all need, a push, someone who will build our confidence and make us feel relaxed and good about ourselves and what we want to express. In case we want to persue our passion in a professional way, that someone should also be direct and honest about the work we created.

It’s  funny because we live in a place and time where creativity is an absolute must have in probably every type of profession, job interviews rarely go by without the ‘show us your creativity assignment’, creativity is no longer something reserved only for kids or quirky adults, it is an expected part of our personality. At the same time, being childlike or playful is frowned upon. I guess we need to learn how to find a balance between the two. Oh no, now I’m starting to feel sick, like trying to wiggle my way out of a boring school essay and that is not a good thing so I will stop writing immediately.