The Phantom of Liberty!

Director: Luis Bunuel

Stars out of 10: 9.0

Luis Bunuel’s films are among the most difficult to understand. Watch An Andalusian Dog, and if you manage to understand more than 2 minutes of it, then you have made it more than I ever could. Same goes for Belle De Jour, although it is pretty much straightforward – It is the ending that has left a-many baffled. This film, however, is beyond anything I’ve seen. The Phantom of Liberty is an absurd, but delicious surreal film that has amusing little scenes here and there. Characters are not given enough screen time to form a personality and associate themselves with the backdrop, and being a surreal film, many events are left unexplained and a large body of them cover taboo topics. Unusual traits for a movie, but then again Bunuel was no usual, everyday director. The scenes don’t make sense, and instead of a cut-scene or fade away, the minor character of that said scene becomes the major character of the next scene with a little help from the major character from the previous scene. Sort of like the Hotswap feature from Battlefield; When you’re thrown in battle, every soldier is just a soldier, but when you Hotswap to a certain soldier, he becomes something much more, he immediately becomes the main character, even though he is not. Same thing with this film. The scenes, like I said before, don’t make sense but that’s just the surface. I believe there to be rational explanations behind it and, whether it was his aim or not, satirical under-tones. The film opens with the French executing the Spanish and then raiding a church, where one of the best surreal scene happens. Then it cuts to a park where two girls are cycling. A man watches them with fascination, hinting at pedophilia, and proceeds to show them pictures, to which the audience thinks are dirty pictures. When they arrive home, and when the girl shows her parents the pictures, they turn to be picture postcards of buildings. Over here Bunuel plays with our fixed mindset that whatever a stranger shows to little girls / boys has to be pornographic. It kinda slaps us in the face, really. When the adults are shown to be quite turned-on – and turned-off – by the buildings, was Bunuel in any way hinting at object sexuality, a.k.a Objektophilia? Then whatever follows after that till the point where the husband meets the doctor, I’m afraid I could not make heads or tails out of it, but it remained a colourful watch.

Then we see the nurse, the minor character in the above mentioned scene, become the major character in this scene. She takes refuge in a motel from the storm. There she meets some monks (from the early church scene, perhaps?). When the nurse tells them of her father’s sickness, they agree to pray for her father in her room. Time passes and the monks are shown, alongside the nurse and the motel manager, to be playing poker and drinking alcohol. Whatever point Bunuel wanted to make here I don’t think I got it but I believe he was playing on the characteristics of motels, or small run-down hotels, but they’re practically the same thing with little differences. These places are a great place to hide-out and unleash the dark, sexual side of your nature and it has an aggressive, sexual personality to it. Things are done almost freely there, as evidenced by the young man who brings his aunt for an incestuous relationship and the BDSM relationship between the businessman and his assistant.

The main highlight, and understanding, of the film lies in the police academy classroom with the professor talking about laws, morality, customs and taboo. I believe if the viewer can understand that scene or bring himself to connect 2 & 2 together, then I believe the viewer can make sense out of the film, tie all the knots. The professor uses an example of a dinner party which he attended with his wife. They sit around a dinner table but not on chairs, but rather toilets. They talk about defecation and any mention of food is considered rude or impolite. Then one of them retires to a little room to eat. In short, the rules and attitudes of a dinner table and bathroom have been switched. I guess if you look at it from the modern point of view, retiring to a little room to eat makes sense. When we eat, we retreat into a private box of our own and any disturbance comes off as irritating – of course this is all metamorphical. But when we’re on the toilet, our mind wanders far off and starts wondering about the mysteries of life and/or the current situation of the world. I wish I could make my point a little clear but I think you get the picture.

Then the class is dismissed and we get a shot of a speeding driver, who is promptly given a ticket. It turns out he was on his way to visiting his doctor. The doctor says the driver has cancer and offers him a cigarette (did I notice sarcasm there?) and receives a slap on the face. The whole chapter concerning Mr. Legrande – the driver – is absurd at its best. But it is absurd in a reeling and positive manner that provokes a lot of WTF? moments and unintentional laughs. Once he reaches home, they receive a call from the school informing that their daughter is missing. They race to the school only to find that the daughter is sitting in the classroom, yet the adults act as if she’s not there and report to the police, despite the fact they acknowledge her presence. The police-station scene is a riot. Like I said, absurd all right. I think what Bunuel did here was he switched the roles and bought everything – that would’ve been behind the curtains in other films – forward, and silly it may sound, it alluded to many real life situations. I can’t exactly pinpoint it out but I guess I’ll have to see the film again.

After this, we follow a man with a briefcase to the top of a building. The briefcase is opened and reveals a sniper, to which the man uses it to shoot random people on the streets. He is eventually caught and sentenced to death but leaves the courtroom as a hero, even signing autographs. There’s no deciphering here. Personalities like him are recognized as heroes and or admirable figures in our twisted world of today, so I guess Bunuel saw it coming. Then the rest of the film follows in a psychological manner, and I only “understood” 1/5 of it, but I guess it might get cleared up in the second viewing. Or maybe not!

The ending of the film takes place in a zoo. Could the ending be the opening of the film? After all the shout that was heard at the end was also heard at the starting. The camera suddenly starts spinning in a blurry motion, making things confusing… also, what was the significance of the ostrich?

I believe the normal approach – the way you approach other “normal” films – should not be adopted here. If possible, try to find out the logic behind the scenes in as parallel-manner as possible, and try to understand it from a psychological and/or metamorphical view-point. Remember, this is a surreal film directed Luis Bunuel, and it is no easy to decipher than the Zodiac Killer’s “farewell” note.

I like watching films like these because no matter what conclusion you – or anyone else – come to, no-one is right or wrong!


Sky Captain & the World Of Tomorrow!

Director: Kerry Conran

Stars out of 10: 7.5

The correct title for the film should be Sky Captain & the World of where lipstick never runs out, heroes are heroes, villains are dead and where 1 minute equals to 5. Anyway, visual-wise it is impressive. It is set in an imaginary 1939 and has a pulpy feel to it. Sky Captain is a retro-future film, so that means a lot of CGI and Blue Screen was put into it, and while some age correctly, even impressively, there are some which don’t, and Sky Captain is the latter. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an entertaining flick. It remained an impressive, authentic feature and really gave you that 30’s feel and, believe it or not, is times better than Captain America: First Avenger, despite the fact that 7 years separate these two movies.

Just like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen gathered all famous literature characters and bought them to one universe, Sky Captain did the same with different genres. You get action, sci-fi, drama, romance, old Indy--style moments, Lone Ranger moments and several influences from cyberpunk and steampunk. It is not unusual if you’re reminded of H.G. Welles, H.P. Lovecraft, Rocketeer, Star Wars, Star Trek, Iron Giant and even War of the Worlds and Bioshock. I’m sure you can add to the list but you can’t deny the fact that Sky Captain is a fascinating film. The presentation is actually more believable than most of the sci-fi films of its time and of the past 5 years.

Changing tracks, story-wise the film was good. Nothing extraordinary, but it did have an interesting twist at the end, though. The script-writing was good, too. They managed to make authoritative dialogues authoritative and not circus-like or anything. Most of the time it was believable and it was also filled with quite-few pop-culture references; Who else loved the “Is it safe?” part?

Unfortunately, the bulb was flickering in the performance department. Jude Law is an actor who I see less but what I see I don’t feel the urge to complain / rant. He has that cool-as-a-cucumber attitude to him and can play heroes almost flawlessly. He was great as usual but it was Gwyneth Paltrow that had me worried. As much as I like her, this was her most wooden, flat-as-a-hedgehog-run-over-by-a-Reliant performance she has ever given. He line delivery was so off and so forced that it felt as if she were talking in a TV commercial. In short, this is how Megan Fox would’ve acted had she been in Sky Captain. Harsh? Yes! The truth? Unfortunately, also yes. Giovanni Ribisi was a good surprise, though. He is an actor to whom I never connected. Whenever I see him on-screen I go like, “Well, there’s Giovanni. Now I’m gonna get distracted by another actor / actress”, and 100% of the time I’m right. Not to say he is a bad actor, far from it, but he never really made a strong impression on me. Anyway, I liked his performance, it was in league with the film. If Paltrow was a missed arrow, then Angelina Jolie was a disaster, akin to someone who photobombs. Nobody likes a photobomber, they’re highly unwelcome. Same case here. Jolie was almost a joke. She was totally mis-cast. Not one of my favourite performances from her I must say.

In conclusion, visual-wise the film is impressive, an achievement that will be called in as a great example in the near future. Performance-wise, however, not enough strong shoulders were bought in but it is still going in my greatest movies list despite the quite-bearable setbacks. It would be like chucking a Lamborghini because of a broken radio. Oh, no!

Edward Scissorhands!

Director: Tim Burton

Stars out of 10: 8.5

The titular character resides in an old, decrepitude mansion that lies at the end of a cheery, colourful late 50’s / early 60’s-themed suburban. The residents are stereotypical, but interesting, and are largely female dominated, which was the usual norm. It also has a crazy, religious lady who is, of course, ignored by all. The main family, the protagonists, are a likable, comfortable, quite-dysfunctional family of four. Peg, – brilliantly and lovingly played by Dianne West – the matriarch of the family, is a door-to-door saleswoman who finds herself in the mansion where Edward lives, and after looking at his poor state, takes him under her wings. From here a classic modern fairy-tale snowballs, which ends on a dark tone, a transition I thoroughly enjoyed. The character of Edward was so perfectly created that it’s no surprise how archetypal he became; He personified the monster of the darkness – although he is not – when he was shown for the first time in the mansion. When Peg brings him to her home, he personifies the spirit that roams about your home, a Djinn if you will, that comes in every shape, size & attitude you can imagine. The narrow hallways, the colourful atmosphere, the tall doors all increased Edwards haunting character, while the mansion made him feel at home. In short, since the majority of the film sets place in small suburban, and since all the residents are stereotypical – adults and kids – Edward is an old-wives tale come true.

All this makes Edward sound a villain, a feared monster, which he is not I can assure you that, you who hasn’t still seen this film. He is a modern Frankenstein, a modern Joseph Merrick. A freak of nature, a.k.a not like you or I, who means good but ends up being misunderstood, thus causing an outrage among the people and the law. Tim Burton apparently knew all of this and made sure that we knew that he knew. What Burton did was he combined all the major factors of a fantasy tale and coated it with extra sugar. Don’t be surprised if some things feel disillusioned, this is Burton’s imagining of how a Disney cartoon would look like if they had the guts to show a little blood and a touch of darkness. Again, don’t be surprised by the overly sympathetic (to some, just pathetic) portrayal of Edward, his relationship with Kim and of the film’s ending. An average fairy-tale starts and ends like this, so why should this film be treated any different? Burton did indeed coat the story with sugar but also added a little bit of pepper to remind us that not every monster can truly be loved.

The score by Danny Elfman is his second-best, after Batman. It is dark, beautiful and something that can only and only belong in a Tim Burton flick.

From the performances, Johnny Depp was truly iconic in his role, and it would be his first collaboration with Tim Burton that would go on to last 8 films in a span of 20 years. He played Edward so understandably  as if he was honoring an age old friend. Even though he has played more eccentric, more well-known characters – most notably Jack Sparrow – this character will always remain as his most best played. Dianne West, on the other hand, truly won me over by her portrayal of Peg. She made an everyday, I’ve-seen-this-in-every-other-movie character a very loving and wonderful character who has just become my favourite heroine. I do believe she should’ve been nominated for an Award. Alan Arkin was a good surprise. When did I last see him? Oh yes, Catch-22. Low-key film, but a fun performance. Over here he plays Bill, husband of Peg, an equally great performance and a likable character. Anthony Michael Hall never really made an impression on me and you can bet your boots I was relieved when his character was killed off. Burton doesn’t like jocks, nor do I + his performance was just OK. The film’s precious little item was Winona Ryder as Kim. When she is first introduced, there is a hint that she might fall under the cliche category but Burton gently picks her up and away from that place. The building of her character is slow but Ryder manages to achieve wonders in her slow pace, making Kim the Belle of this film. She had the potential of making her character times better, she really did, but Kim really wasn’t written in an exaggerated sense so she wasn’t given a large amount of elbow room to move about. In all, a very satisfactory performance!

In conclusion, I’ve come to acknowledge Edward Scissorhands as Tim Burton’s magnum opus. Even though Batman is Burton-esque, this film has what Batman was lacking in; Johnny Depp, and that in itself is saying something!

If I were to say to you

This poem is written from a dying person’s POV. It can also be connected to the Dec. 21st scare we all had for a-while.

If I were to say to you

That there would be no tomorrow for me

Would you listen to every word I say

Show me the world like I’ve never seen and never let go of my hand

If I were to say to you

That my love for you will never die

Would you say the same to me

Shine a little light on my suffering

If I were to say to you

I apologize for all the times I made you cry

But I’ll remember all the times you smiled

I will never be with you again but you will always be in my memory

(WIP – still need to add more lines)

The Room!

The story goes that a burglar decides to rob the rich-filled, but abandoned and broken-down, Cattum’s Manor. Once he goes in, he sees blinding light coming from the top floor. He decides to investigate and finds the source. An empty room bathed in light so blinding and so powerful that the burglar is unable to see for a few minutes. After when his eyes get accustomed to it, he sees a hundred spirits all around the room. They claim they once lived here and after getting knowledge of the burglar’s intent, they make him their prisoner. Day and night they whisper all of their life story to their victim. His pleas go unnoticed and his prayers fall on deaf ears. Every-time the man ages and is on the verge of death, the spirits put him to sleep and awake him as a new man and continue torturing him. Hundreds of years go by and it seems he is stuck there for eternity.

I’ve borrowed certain elements from the Greek mythology like, the door is always open but whenever he goes out of the room, he is somehow transported back whenever he opens the main door, or any door, or any window. That alludes to the Sisyphus torture. His aging and waking up as a new man and re-living the horrible torture alludes to the punishment of Prometheus. The main DNA is gotten from Home By the Sea by Genesis.  

The Man Awakes:

The man opened his eyes. Quickly he got from the floor to sitting position. He looked at his hands and felt his face; He was a young man again. All the wrinkles had gone. Without wasting another second the man got up, reached for the ridiculously low ceiling and with his nail of the index finger, carved a straight line. He saw there were four straight lines. He sighed and carved a diagonal line over them, finishing another set of five. He then wiped his face and laid back on the ground. He noticed there were six sets of five in total. That means he had been driven to old age – wrinkled, crippled and blind – and possibly insane, and then resurrected a new man a total of thirty times. He tried to conjure up a thought but to no avail. His thinking filters had long stopped, as had his prayers, hopes, dreams and pleas – although one of his pleas was fulfilled. That he gets to keep a record of the times he was resurrected. Everytime he woke up – wrinkle-free, no longer blind and able to walk – he would carve a line on the ceiling. Every line was separated by decades, some even longer.

Finally he got up, his head almost touching the ceiling, and saw that the spirits were already hovering above him, their expressions as empty as the blindly lit room. He looked at them, his face transformed into an exact mirror of theirs and, having long run out of tears and bargains, he nodded. Almost instantly the spirits gathered around him and they started: Some yelling, some whispering. He could feel his skin wrinkling already.

The Burglar at the Cattum’s Manor

He Sits By My Side

A poem written from a naive 7 yr. old child’s perspective. A personification of Death makes itself visible to the little boy and the boy be-friends him, thinking he is an Angel.

I’m friends with an Angel, you know

He is big, long and wears a black cloak

He is not exactly like the one in pictures

But then again, this is reality and that is fictional

He walks with me side by side

No-one can see him but only I

When it starts raining, he protects me

From the rain, but always seems to leave

My head wet when he blows me dry

And when I fall sick, I really don’t know why

My Angel, who always sits by my side, has a glint in his eye

And everytime when I get better, that glint goes

He gets sad but still, wherever I go he follows

Sometimes I try to talk to him but all he does is grunt

And boy, sometimes he can be so careless and so blunt

Like when I was crossing the road yesterday

A huge truck was coming my way

It was coming fast and I got scared but,

My Angel jumped in-between me and the truck

He pushed me to the side by his hand

And into a wall I crashed

And because I broke my leg

I’m lying here in my bed

My Angel is sitting by my side

But what I don’t understand is why

Does he have a glint in his eye?