“you say isle of dogs we hear i love dogs” reads a tweet from the official Isle of Dogs account. Naturally, I repeated it over and over again — Isle of Dogs, I love dogs, Isle of Dogs, I love dogs. Wes Anderson’s latest is a touching love letter to our canine companions. It’s replete with the signature touches we know and love (or hate), a style that has been parodied a countless number of times. The delectable animation on display here is no gimmick though — Anderson imbues his film with a warmth and sincerity that affirms that his style can coexist with substance, with the breezy confidence of an auteur in full command of his craft.
In the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki, mayor Kobayashi has banished every dog to Trash Island — the titular Isle — to curb the spread of “dog flu” and “canine fever”. One of these dogs is Spots, the former bodyguard dog of the mayor’s orphaned nephew Atari, and the subject of a desperate search that is the heart of this story. Back in Megasaki, group of teenage activists attempt to rise against the corrupt government and find a cure for the dog flu. Isle of Dogs is thrilling and charming in equal measure — I even found myself tearing up a few times, but if the sight of a dog crying doesn’t make you feel anything then you definitely don’t have a heart.
There is something wondrous about Vladan Radovic’s imagery in Daughter of Mine, Laura Bispuri’s warm and well-intentioned sophomore feature. The bright pink of candy cotton, the light blue of the sea, the flaming red of a girl’s head and all the other colours let the setting brim with beauty and liveliness. Everything looks gorgeous, but there is no stylization felt, the island of Sardinia is alive in a way that makes you feel the sand beneath your feet, the taste of salt water in your mouth and the warm sun on your skin.
In this landscape defined by nature, a story is told, that is fittingly defined by human nature – the story of the young Vittoria, excellently played the by incredible child (and first-time) actress Sara Casu, and her search for her “real” mother. At first everything seems to be fine in Vittoria’s life – she knows where her place is. Under the wings of Tina, a woman who tries to raise the girl as she seems to think is right, and with the aim to make her a good and stable person, she is protected and safe, but also isolated, as her interactions with her classmates show.
Let me start by saying that Gugu Mbatha-Raw is one of my absolute favorite actors, male or female. So, it breaks my heart that I thoroughly did not enjoy Netflix’s latest original film. Directed by Stephanie Laing, Irreplaceable You shares Abbi’s journey as she learns she is dying of cancer not long after she becomes engaged to her life-long boyfriend, played by Michiel Huisman, and tries to find him a potential mate for after she dies. Along the way with treatment, Abbi encounters different people struggling with cancer as well, like Christopher Walken and Kate McKinnon.
Christian Petzold tells emotionally rich, often female-led stories, which he intertwines closely with the settings they are located in. But he is most of all known for the stunning conclusions of his narratives – these moments have often been considered the best parts of his work, films like Phoenix and Barbara seem to only come full circle during their last beats. The reason for that, is Petzold’s way of letting the temporal and spatial aspects of the narrative fade into the background for a moment, narrowing his gaze down on the humanist, universal and timeless truths that the characters are confronted with.
With Transit, a mainly Marseille-set story about a man that gets caught up in complications of love and identity while trying to flee Europe as a refugee, it seems like he wants to reshape the way he tells these stories – it is a logical and very bold step forward in the context of his body of work.
Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer in TRANSIT. All rights to Schramm Film / The Match Factory
The film is an adaptation of Anna Segher’s World War II novel with the same name, but while the narrative is similar in general plot points and dialogue, the film removes it from its original historical context and reframes it into a modern-day setting. One would expect Petzold to adjust the story to that new setting, but he doesn’t. It’s very strange and feels borderline kafkaesque, but it works immensely well. The narrative manages to comment on its real-life context by highlighting universality instead of being specifically descriptive – the refugees of today’s Europe get a part of their story told too, even though the book template is broadly based on the experiences of refugees more than 70 years ago.
The emotional climax and the breaking point of Spike Jonze’s 2013 romantic science-fiction drama film Her, is a rather silent, smaller one: there are no fights, no raised voices, no unexpected car accidents. Its visual and audial qualities provide two very different realities: the former is muted in its similar world of addiction and isolation — maybe not even that different from our society, while the latter literally explodes in itself with emotional connection and sensuality. In what can only be described as the portrayal of the weirdest, yet still purest for some, form of human connection; the male protagonist Theodore Twombly, who is played by Joaquin Phoenix in a remarkable performance, sits on the stairs of the subway of the futuristic Los Angeles that the movie is set in, asking simple, yes-or-no type questions to the voice planted in his ears. On the other side of the picture is Samantha, a talking operating system with artificial intelligence voiced by Scarlett Johansson, answering slowly. Johansson’s signature tone is soothing, an invisible yet undeniable veil between what is designed and what is felt within the code-based existence of her character. Continue reading “Throwback Review: “Her” & The Mechanics of Human Condition”→
Clint Eastwood is a filmmaker I greatly admired for a large part of my life. The fact that he could be so masterful both in front of and behind the camera was astounding to me. He cemented his legendary status as an actor in Sergio Leone’s ‘Man With No Name’ Trilogy of the 1960s, and did the same for his reputation behind the camera with films like Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River and Gran Torino under his belt. He was someone I greatly looked up to in my youth, mostly because of his incredibly intense and charismatic presence in all of his films.However, times have changed. Just like Eastwood himself, I’ve gotten a lot older, and the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve been able to notice the crumbling foundation behind Clint Eastwood’s fast paced and slapdash methods of putting together films. This has resulted in everything he’s made after Gran Torino being either uninspired or just flat out bad. Even though films like Hereafter, Jersey Boys and American Sniper were all very disappointing, they are nowhere as horrendously incompetent as The 15:17 to Paris.
Where do I even begin with this one? If you showed me this film with no prior knowledge of its existence, and then you told me that it was directed by Clint Eastwood, then I probably would’ve laughed in your face. This movie is an absolute mess from the start. The entire first thirty or so minutes of the movie take place when our main heroes are children, and this is without a doubt the worst directing Clint Eastwood has ever done. The camerawork is shoddy, the dialogue is horrendous and cliched, and the acting is on a whole other level of bad. Everything about this film is wrong, but if you were paying attention to the production details of it, you’d have seen this coming from a mile away.
As much as we bicker with our parents, it’s safe to say that no child ever wants to feel like they’re not wanted. Unfortunately, poor little Alexey is the biggest loser of the parental lottery. His parents are going through a divorce so brutal, it makes you question why they even got married in the first place; they have both found new partners and it’s clear from observing their separate lives that their son doesn’t fit into the equation. One night they argue over who should take custody — neither of them wanting to carry what they consider a burden. A shot tracks the mother, Zhenya, as she leaves the bathroom and slams the living room door to reveal a devastated Alexey hiding behind it — his face projecting horror and overwhelming sadness. It is perhaps the most powerful shot in a film full of them. Any cliched metaphor can be applied — a stab in the heart, a punch in the gut — from there, I understood that this was going to be a rough ride, though I was never expecting it to be easy.