Saturday, March 15, 2008

Messiah series

A few years ago I saw an episode on AXN from a series called Messiah. I remembered because there was Neil Dudgeon in it. Dudgeon plays Moggy Cattermole in one of my favourite series Piece of Cake and he is very good (He got all the juicy lines. I read the book. They even gave Fitz's lines to Moggy.) I also remembered Ken Stott from Shallow Grave, another favourite of mine. Last month I read the book Messiah by Boris Starling. The story was horrifying and on some pages there were a pair of evil eyes looking at me. I hesitated to get the movie, would my stomach be able to stand it? However finally I got the movie and it wasn't as gruesome as I had imagined it to be, for thankfully the team who made the movie was very skillful and they decided not to make their audience sick. Although I read the book only one month ago, the movie was very gripping. There were some changes, like the character Susan Metcalfe could not speak, Eric had been released from prison, there was no Charlotte's father offered the reward, and Red's hair was not red.

I found the series 2 was slower than the 1st and Lubezski was replaced by someone else. It had good script, though, and the real killer was very unpredictable.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

I like Rocco and His Brothers better than The Leopard, because for me the story of poor rural migrants struggling in a big city is more moving than an aristocrat who realizes he has become old.

Rocco and His Brothers tells about the Parondi family. The eldest son, Vincenzo, has already been in Milan when his mother arrives with 4 more sons from southern Italy to escape from their miserable life. Things begin to get bad when the 2nd son, Simone, blinded by his initial success as a boxer, becomes a drunkard, gambler, and petty thief; and get worse when his lover Nadia falls in love with Rocco, the 3rd son.

I was lucky that when I was about to get the DVD, there was a new version coming out in the UK, with interviews, documentaries, and a 40-page booklet. Italian movies are not so easy to understand (unlike Hollywood productions) so it makes me glad if the extras on the DVD are as many as possible. The booklet contains lots of information, including why Luchino Visconti chose Alain Delon to play saintly Rocco, why it’s called Rocco and His Brothers (not Simone and His Brothers, for example), and the change of the family name from Pafundi to Parondi. Although the movie is quite long, almost 3 hours, and it wasn’t boring at all. It's a serious movie with very good studies on the characters. The rape scene is one of most moving moments in film I’ve ever seen, so is the scene when Rocco tells about the hatred grows up in him. Among the wonderful cast, in my opinion, Renato Salvatori stood out as the troubled Simone: his hopeful spirit when he first came to Milan, until how bad he turned to be in the end. Rocco and Ciro, the 4th son, both adore Simone, but they act differently. Rocco does anything for Simone's sake, but Ciro is the sensible one and does what is the best for the family. Rocco thinks that if Nadia comes back to Simone, Simone will be good again; but it’s not true; for when she is still with Simone, he has already been lazy and drunk too much. Nadia is leading a new life, but Rocco’s decision makes her lost her growing faith, and although he has a good intention, it leads them all to a tragic end.

The DVD contains 2 soundtracks: Italian and French, which enable me to hear the real
voice of Alain Delon and Annie Girardo (who interestingly murmured their dialogues in French); for both are dubbed in the Italian soundtrack. The black and white images are great. It’s nice to see how Milan looked like in 1960. The most beautiful background must be the roof of Duomo di Milano. I have a friend who told me that Italy has more beautiful buildings than anywhere in the world.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fairy Tales vs Reality

Enchanted is a very entertaining movie. I like Alan Menken's works and in Enchanted the songs are well blended with the movie. True Love's Kiss has already become my favourite.

In Andalasia, Giselle is waiting for a true love's kiss and she meets Prince Edwards, falls in love, and they ride into the sunset, to the castle. The queen, Prince Edward's stepmother, is against the wedding because it means she has to give up the throne. She throws Giselle into the 'wishing well', sends her to a faraway place, where there is no happy ever after. Giselle lands in New York and stays with Robert, a widower, and his daughter Morgan. Meanwhile, Prince Edward and Pip the chipmunk are trying to find her. The evil queen also sends her loyal follower Nathaniel to stop the prince. However, is it true that happy ever after only happens in fairy tales?

Amy Adams is very good as Giselle. She has an innocent look and is convincing as a princess from the fairy tales living in reality. Prince Edward, on the other hand, looks like a fool; which is a pity because I like the prince to be gallant, like Prince Philip from Sleeping Beauty. The dresses made from curtain are very cute. There are many nods to Disney's previous works and here are some of them:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

System of justice

Before watching this movie, I read comments how people compare Deux hommes dans la ville (1973) to the famous story of Les Misérables. Now that I've seen this, I agree with them. Jean Gabin and Alain Delon star in this moving movie about an ex-convict who tries to have a new life, but a police won't let him.

Germain Cazeneuve (Gabin) is an educator and it's his job to convince the prison's chief that some convicts will do no harm anymore for the society if they are freed. One day he vouches for Gino Strabliggi (Delon), who has served 10 out of 12-year sentence for robbery. Strabliggi finds an honest work and avoids his old friends, but a police inspector (Michel Bouquet) keeps tailing him, especially when he learns Strabliggi's new girlfriend works in a bank. In the end, Strabliggi loses his patience and killed the inspector.

The director José Giovanni who also wrote the scenario, had got a presidential pardon while in death row. This movie, which has a tragic end, successfully made me love the main characters. God forgives, but society won't even forget. Inspector Goitreau who tails Strabliggi is like a mad man, obsessed by his principle that a criminal is always a criminal, no way he can be changed. He ignores Strabliggi's new boss's opinion that Strabliggi is the best worker he's ever had. He also tries make a trap by telling a criminal he has caught, that his old friend Strabliggi has grassed him. The solicitor's speech in the trial gives an impression that it's the society who sends a man to guillotine. Killing a policeman is punished by the maximum sentence, but in this case, like Cazeneuve's opinion, the justice should know better about the man it judges. This is one of the few movies which left sadness in my heart. There is no ending credits, and it ends with a blackness, while the beautiful theme song still plays on, as if asking us to think about what we have seen. Also starring is young Gerard Depardieu, as a youth who is ready for his first crime.

Le Samouraï (1967)

Le Samouraï is the 2nd Jean-Pierre Melville work that I've seen. Melville never had a formal training as a director, so his style was very unique. When I first watched another of his work, Un Flic, it seemed to be slow; but at the 2nd viewing, I was in a better mood and amazed by the wonderful photography. Therefore, I knew what to expect when I was about to watch Le Samouraï. This movie is about solitude (and I read it's about schizophrenia, too) , a lonely hitman who lives in a minimalist flat with a bird. Alain Delon plays Jef Costello, the contract hitman whose eyes often look blank and empty, and I think it's a perfect way to portray an unhappy man; a dreamer who seems to live in another world. The choice of the bird as a pet is also interesting. Why a bird, and not a dog or a cat? -but as the story goes, the bird proves its usefulness, more effective than a dog or a cat, as it alerts the owner but not the intruder. The images are very beautiful and silence is used to build the suspense.

The movie begins with a shot of Jef's room, and while the credits roll gradually the audience can see that a man is lying on the bed, smoking. At first I thought the sound was of a fan in the ceiling, but there is no fan and it's the bird's. Another thing that amazes me is how dialogues are only used when necessary, and that makes this movie very elegant. After seeing 2 Melville works, I think he liked to maintain silence to build the suspense, and that time (in the movie) was very important. Melville's two movies I have seen have excellent picture quality. They are even clearer than recent movies. I think it's because the amount of light was generous (although some shot in darkness were blurry), and perhaps the pale colours he used were also important. My favourite scene are: the rain falls on Jef's car window, gives an excellent effect on his face, and when he feeds the bird.

Although entitled Le Samouraï, this is a French movie, set in Paris in 1967. Some of the costumes are not fit for the time (the fedora, trench-coat), but this was deliberately done, and they look great on-screen. Another thing that doesn't make sense is how so many police tail Jef all over the city, while the main witness without doubt states that he is not the killer and he has a solid alibi. In all, this is a very beautiful movie and what we need to do is to sit back and enjoy. Is there anything such as a perfect film? -but as a medium, this serves perfectly the director's intention.

Monday, March 3, 2008

God's Spy

I finished this book in two days, which was fast enough for me. I was also glad to be able to get it at a bargain price.
Juan Gomez-Jurado is a journalist lives in Spain and this is his first book.

I had imagined something else in mind after reading the title and the synopsis, and after finishing the book, if I get it right, in my opinion the title can be misleading. God's Spy is indeed there, but it's not what the main story is about.

The story is set in 2005, after the death of Pope John Paul II and cardinals from all around the world come for the conclave in Vatican. The heroine is a profiler, Police Inspector Paola Dicanti, who enters the story when a cardinal is found murdered in a chapel and she is asked to investigate. She gets help from Fabio Dante, a deputy inspector of the Vigilanza (Vatican police force); and Father Anthony Fowler, an American priest who has contacts with the killer in the past. Dicanti's hunt becomes personal after her friend detective Maurizio Ponteiro also becomes a victim.

The story is fast paced, I almost couldn't put it down. The conclusion is satisfyting, although there are some secrets from Fowler's past which are left unanswered. I hope the story is 100% fictional and that corrupt cardinals merely existed in the Middle Ages.