rev-ewe 37: Les Contes de la Nuit

Les Contes de la Nuit (English: Tales of the Night)
Michel Ocelot

If I had to think of three words to describe this movie (which was really just a series of episodes, similar to A Town Called Panic), they would be ... Beautiful, clever, racist.  But, more than anything, I always love me a good animated film.  If animation style captures me, it's pretty much a wrap.

The premise of the episodes are three people -- an elderly man, a young boy and a young girl who all love to create plays, but are in the wrong age range for the industry.. so they meet in an empty theatre to make their own plays up.  Okay, I can get behind that.  If that really did happen, it'd probably be pretty interesting.  Each episode is a new play that they think up.

1. Beautiful -- the animation style is interesting because it's mostly inspired by Thai shadow puppets, where the main characters are more or less just shadows in front of absolutely gorgeous backdrops.  Wonderful colors, patterns, styles, everything.  Every episode has a distinct flavor and color palette to it which makes it completely unique from the last.  I was blown away by just how stunning the animation was!  The expressions, movements, character designs (for limited shapes such as.. just outlines)... Truly top notch, I appreciate the approach.

2.  Clever -- each story was fun, had a great plot twist at the end, and held true to old style tall tales, where everything was exaggerated, ridiculous and farfetched.  Much like Twilight Zone, you think you know how it's going to end, and suddenly there's something completely different in there.  They follow crazy plots from princesses chasing werewolves, magic drums that no one can resist dancing to, to winning the heart of the daughter of the King of the Dead.  Each one was worth watching.

Aaaaand.. 3.  Racist -- The stereotypes the French flippantly throw around are.. tough to stomach at first, but the stories themselves somehow make up for it.  I don't know why they try to venture into culturally Black scenarios and then use ridiculous stereotypes to portray them, but I guess if anything it's an interesting insight into the French's complete disregard for the term 'politically correct'.  Whatever.  

I would recommend watching it for the stories and the beautiful animation. Also, I would try to avoid the British dub version because the voice actors are kindof annoying.. but it's on Netflix that way so... enjoy it!


rev-ewe 36: Lagaan

Ashutosh Gowarikar
I LOVE THIS MOVIE!  Ever since I was probably.. 13, I remember seeing this movie on that random film channel we used to have and I'd love committing my Saturday afternoons to this nearly 4 hour movie. 
That's right - 4 hours.
Worth it?  Absolutely.
Talk about feel-good, well-done, beautiful Bollywood.  Great storyline, developed characters, fun songs.  The colors are all stunning, choreography is on point, and.. well.. it's just a great movie.

The story is basically about this small village that has to pay increased taxes to the British (takes place in the late 1800s) and when no rains come, a challenge is presented by one man - increased taxes or none at all... over a cricket match.  
Simple, sweet, gets the job done.  Sports, romance, singing, dancing, this thing has got it all.

I highly recommend watching this if you have the time (Even if you don't, watch it in installments.. so much fun!) and want a really entertaining feel-good movie.
PLUS it's on Netflix right now!  So get on it!


rev-ewe 35 - Man With A Movie Camera

Man With A Movie Camera (Человек с киноаппаратом)
Russia (USSR, technically)
Dziga Vertov

This movie is a full cinematic experience.  It takes on every aspect of film and turns it around and makes exquisite movie love to your eyeballs.  Well, to your whole face, really.  The film is simply an experience more than it is anything else.  There's the slightest hint of a plot, but really it's just an artistic expose of this time and people.

Just by showing life in a 1920s Russian city through specifically chosen clips and edited in a way-ahead-of-their-time manner, the film is able to keep you captured the whole way through.  There were shots I was amazed someone could get at that time considering the technology (bulky ass camera).  Perhaps my favorite was a montage of shots of people doing sports (picture shown) and they're played in slow motion as if he had the same frame rate sports shows do today!  It's absolutely gorgeous, I don't know how they did it, and I quite frankly don't care (No, I do care.. it's amazing!).  The movie seriously is just stunning and can actually be kind of draining the first time through due to its overwhelming awesomeness.

Very experimental style, the score is well chosen, at times too perfect.  It breaks the fourth wall quite often, which I love, and it does it in such a way that helps to tell the sort-of story.  Worth watching if you love to look at beautiful things, love culture/people, or if you're just wanting something really mind-blowing to watch.  I also particularly liked the fact that early animation is incorporated into it.  It must have been unbelievably tedious to do the film, but it paid off.  Just a masterpiece!


rev-ewe 34: Smoke Signals

Smoke Signals
Chris Eyre

Aha!  I've found another American film to add to my list of movies.  I know, I can be horribly snobbish when it comes to the types of movies I watch, but it just so happens I don't usually like American movies... And, arguably, this movie isn't "American".  This movie is directed, produced and written by Native Americans.  If you've ever read (and enjoyed) any Sherman Alexie books, then you'll love this movie.

I don't know that plot is even important to this movie at all.  Probably because in actuality, the film is just a compilation of various Sherman Alexie short stories, but also just because it's more about the characters than it is about any sort of plot or conflict resolution.  It presents some really down-to-earth interpretations of Native issues.  Life on reservations, the problems faced by many American Indians today, and what it means to be American Indian (Though, I will note that the three main actors are all Canadian! ...well, whatever that means.).  

I think it's so successful in this way because it's actually written and produced by Native Americans!  I've always had an issue with any minority topics being presented by white people/men.  That's right, I said it!  I can't stand when white people(men) try to represent cultures/experiences they don't and could never actually understand (I'm writing this as an angry anthropologist, as well, because years of reading ethnographies written by white men gets to ya).  Nooot the case with Smoke Signals, though.

The direction is great, writing even better, and it leaves you feeling really satisfied at the end.  The screenshot I chose was from a monologue given by the main character's father, which was perhaps one of the best monologues I've ever heard.  Such beautiful analogies, fervor, love.  I'm def a sucker for great metaphors, and this one deeeelivers.  The movie has a great sense of humor and there's just the right amount of it and used to the right purpose.  While I found the film just the slightest bit too exaggerated at first, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, quite the opposite!  The over-the-top depiction of these characters and their stories makes it even more fun to watch.  

Really, overall, just delightful and has some absolutely fantastic characters and monologues.  Sure, not THE GREATEST, but it's just one of those good movies you enjoy watching and is certainly above and beyond anything Hollywood is dishing out these days.


rev-ewe 33: Korkoro

Korkoro (English: Freedom/Alone)
Tony Gatlif

So much to say about this movie!  Like so many other French movies, it lacks any real plot or usual conflict-resolution arc.  It focused on the Romani gypsies in Nazi-occupied France.  Some might say this is the France/Gypsy version of Schindler's List, but... I certainly liked this movie more.  It was definitely interesting to see a part of the Holocaust that isn't usually discussed.

Within the first five minutes, I was sold.  At first, it seemed to be just another pretentiously 'artistic' film, but it quickly picked up and suddenly you're thrust into the characters' lives.  While each of the characters are interesting in their own way, the character Taloche totez steals the show.  I enjoyed every moment that he was on the screen 'cause he's just so full of energy and good humor.  The humor, when used, was on! point!  The movie is chock-full of Gypsy music, one of my personal favorites, and it helps to keep the movie going.  Beautiful stuff.

While the coherence of the film is just slightly off, it certainly doesn't take away from enjoying the film. The setting, storyline, and timeframe of each scene jumps around and there are a lot of issues that get brought up but never resolved or even explained.  Still, it was absolutely beautiful to watch and the characters were so well portrayed that the lack of any in-depth analysis of just about anything can be overlooked.  The art direction was truly superb and there are certain shots that are just breath-taking.  Sure, it can be a little stereotypical and certainly a bit romanticized, but hey.. isn't that what we go to the movies for?

Watch it for Gypsy music, for beautiful cinematography, and certainly for entertaining and genuine characters.  Overall, I guess I'd give it a 8 out of 10.


rev-ewe 32: Baran

Majid Majidi
A charming and beautiful movie.  Don't like foreign films?  Don't worry, this movie isn't heavy on dialogue.  It's much more about the interactions between characters and the sounds throughout the movie.

Background information I found that I think is relevant to appreciating the movie:
The Hazari are an ethnic group from Afghanistan who fled to Iran when the Taliban took over Afghanistan. While the Hazari can be traced to living in Afghanistan as long as any other Afghan ethnic group, they have distinct facial features that set them apart (generally looking very 'Asian' by American standards).  Because of this, many consider them outsiders.  As well, they're mostly Shi'ites, which differentiates them from the overwhelming majority of Sunni Muslims.  In 2001 (when this film was made), the Taliban openly targeted the Hazari people and burned down villages across the Hazarajat region.  When this happened, Hazari people fled where they could, and many went to Iran.  Since living in Iran, many Hazari have complained of being mistreated and taken advantage of (much like the immigrants of USA).  Many work difficult manual labor jobs for extremely low pay.  That's where this film comes in.
[if you're curious, read this National Geographic article: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/02/afghanistan-hazara/phil-zabriskie-text]

The movie takes place in Iran at a worksite where a boy, Lateef, is working the easy job.  Once a younger boy comes along, however, he is made to do the harder work and the younger boy takes his tea making and cooking job.  He tries to sabotage the new boy's work but soon realizes there's more to the situation than he originally thought and changes drastically in how he chooses to interact.  He realizes the magnitude of his actions and that people face bigger problems than he does.  I don't want to reveal what I didn't know at first (even though it's written in almost every quick plot synopsis) so ... I would say just watch it.

Definitely a coming-of-age story as well as a love story.  I didn't realize the first time through who the characters were exactly, but after round 2, it becomes more apparent and the story gets even better.  After watching it a second time, it seriously gets waaay better.  So it's certainly a movie worth watching just because it's an investment in good movies to watch over and over.

It's got a wonderfully slow pace, which may be difficult to watch at first, and is comforting in its beauty.  It was a great way to look into specific groups of people that I had no idea had such a complex relationship in society.  If you really need another reason to watch this movie, watch it to see how Afghan (specifically Hazari) and Iranians interact together as well as apart.  The Iranian setting is beautiful in every scene, and the emphasis the movie puts on sound is really unique.  I'd definitely have to watch it again to catch on more of the importance in the soundtrack, but it was noticeable enough to pick up on the first time through.
Gender is a very interesting part of the movie that is brought up.  I don't really want to talk too much about it because there's too many cultural and situational things that I'd rather not comment on, but simply found interesting.

Best part of the movie?  In the last scene, there's a great and very subtle combination of visual and audio that was extremely successful in what it had to express.  Subtlety is this movie's greatest asset, truly.

So .. total?  About a 9/10.  Though I probably didn't really understand what was going on, it was so beautiful and gets better each time I watch it.

** Might I also add that Baran means 'Rain' which is pretty important to the last shot in the movie (or really.. the whole movie).


rev-ewe 31: Tears of the Black Tiger

Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร)
Wisit Sasanatieng

I have two things to say about this movie:
LOL. wtf?

So, there's actually a whole lot more to say about it.  It was hilariously exaggerated, beautifully put together, and strongly stylistic.  While the storyline was a bit mundane, it was presented in such a way that I could never have imagined a Thai movie would be like.
I guess I'd give it  8.5 out of 10?  Really, really well-done, though the story is pretty bland.  Beautiful to watch, the supporting roles MORE than make up for anything it lacks.  The first 15 minutes I could not stop laughing.  Watch it for Thai cowboys!!

The plot is basically that of a love between a poor boy and a rich girl, per usual, and of course their love is restricted.  Womp womp.  Truly, though, the best part is that it's presented like an old Western.  At first I thought the color scheme was just because those were the colors of old TECHNICOLOR! But, the whole movie uses mostly just two colors- fuscia and teal.  Beautiful!  The Western feel of it is hilariously done as the supporting actors are over-the-top and the sets are intensely designed.  Plus.. I mean, c'mon.  Thai cowboys?  Yes, please!  Why hasn't this been done before!  I could go into a whole analytical bit about the aesthetics of the film, but really all I wanna say is the fact that it was a Thai Western that was so beyond anything I could have expected!

*Fun Fact: the lead actress isn't actually Thai.  She's an Italian model who... happens to be fluent in Thai.  lol?