My Thoughts on “Simon of the Desert” by Luis Buñuel

A few weeks ago, I watched Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty (1974), and I was like: “Hey! This Luis Buñuel guy is onto something.”. So, I decided to do some research, and apparently, he made like 33 films. Being the obsessive person I am, I decided to watch all of the films he directed during his life. (this has been a mission)

I’m thinking of writing a post later on rating all of his work, or at least rating the films that I manage to find on tv and online.

Anyway, I’m here today because Simon of the Desert has been in my mind since I watched it. (It has been 11 days now, so I need to analyse why it stuck with me.) Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Simon of the Desert (1965) was the last film Buñuel directed before moving to France, therefore this film is included in his Mexican period. (a period which is often considered anti-ecclesiastical) The film’s central theme concerns the contrast between high-minded spirituality and its mundane/real version. It is a satirical abstract film, and, at least for me, there is a lot of dense information that is difficult to grasp in a single viewing.

Before anything else, I want to mention a few things. The cinematography is one of the best things this film has to offer, the writing is incredibly astute, and the narrative structure is perfect (especially given the film is only 45 minutes long). 

Now, regarding the plot. Simon has spent six years, six months, and six days on top of a pillar. (what a random number, ah ah ah) When the film starts, he is coming down from his tower, even if briefly, to move to a much taller one. The new pillar was provided for him by a rich benefactor, which is the first moment the audience realises the irony of what is going on. (Or at least that is when I realised it.) We have this man who is supped to be above money and material possessions in favour of being close to God, but he accepts expensive and unnecessary gifts. 

Simon is a caricature of what we think a prophet would look like. He even goes through temptations similar to the ones Jesus had in the desert from the Devil, which are somewhat reproduced in the same order here.

The film ends with Simon being unable to refuse the devil one last time. Because of that, he is taken to hell which is portrayed as a busy nightclub full of people dancing. The idea that hell is “drugs and rock and roll” is not that complex or grounded in theology. It is banal, and I think that is why Buñuel chooses to present it in such a manner. It is portrayed as silly and largely incongruent with biblical teachings, just like Simon’s religious practice.

At any rate, I loved this film. Even with my limited cinema related knowledge and a brain unable to understand complex concepts without thinking about them for way too long, I still loved it. Highly recommend it!

I have to end this with the interaction between the devil and Simon once they get to hell:
Simon: ”What’s this dance called?”
The Devil: “Radioactive Flesh.” It’s the latest – and the last!”

Bye!


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Wings, by Larisa Shepitko – Film Review

Wings was Larisa Shepitko’s debut feature after she graduated from the famous All-Russian State Institute for Cinematography.

The film follows forty-one-year-old Nadezhda Petrukhina, a once WWII Soviet pilot, now living a quiet but unsatisfactory and ordinary life as a principal at a trade school. While treasured and respected by the generation that experienced the same War, Nadezhda struggles to connect with the generation that followed hers. She disapproves of her daughter’s (Tanya’s) choices in men and worries that her daughter might discover she is adopted.

The film is filled with a sense of neverending alienation deepened by a rich array of subject matters. These topics create a cracking portrait characterized by remembrance, grief, longing, and the struggles that come with getting older. 

The film is a superb character study that, surprisingly, ends up providing more hope than sorrow. Maya Bulgakova’s portrayal of Nadezhda has incredible nuance. She effortlessly conveyed the profound, wounded warmth of the character underneath the thick exterior of sombre uprightness. That final closeup of her eyes filled with tears while in the cockpit gave me a punch of sudden sadness!

Wings has a strong sense of Russian postwar nationalism, but it is not afraid to explore the morally ambiguous ramifications of that same nationalism on the human mind. Managing to also explore femininity through the lens of feminism while the movement was picking up steam worldwide.

I recommend this film to everyone who enjoys contemplating human existence and is interested in Soviet cinema. Please, let me know what to think about it.

Bye!


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My Thoughts on “Much Ado About Nothing” (play and film)

I watched and read Much Ado About Nothing, and here is what I think.

First, let’s talk about the 1993 film. It is wonderfully acted, let me tell you. With the magnificent ensemble of Keneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington and Kate Beckinsale, who could expect anything less?

I have to give all due respect to the cinematographer (Roger Lanser) for using the landscape available so beautifully. Not to mention, the soundtrack (Patrick Doyle) goes amazingly well if the overall absurdist feeling of the film. Overall, the directing style (Kenneth Branagh) was suitable for the story being told.

Just like the original play, this film manages to maintain its fun, lively and light feeling, while somehow adding to the play’s Pythonesque tone.

Listening to Emma Thompson reciting Shakespeare is an entire experience in and of itself, which I didn’t know I needed. What’s more, I believe I feel a bit in love with Denzel Washington, but that is neither here nor there.

Now, allow me to explain the plot. Claudio catches a glimpse of Hero and is immediately in love, and by her expression, she lets us know she reciprocates. While this is happening, Benedick and Beatrice are becoming aware they too are attracted to each other. However, unlike the other pair, their passion is expressed through quarrels and insults.

Since this is, what I would call, a Shakespearean romantic comedy, there is quite a bit of mockery, farce, zingers, and there is melodrama beyond contempt, but it all is right in the end.

The original play is known as one of Shakespeare comedies, and it was written around 1598. But let me tell you, it was only one step from falling into tragedy.

The play’s action is remarkably gamelike. There are dances, eavesdropping, disguises and misunderstandings, which gives us a lighthearted and upbeat pattern.

Something I realized after watching the film was that the play was very much dominated by two side characters. I found myself overlooking the main couple and rooting for Beatrice and Benedick. I reckon this is the result of their intellect and strength when compared to that of other characters in the story. However, I also believe they are afraid of rejection and of being the object of ridicule, so they choose to pretend they hate each other’s guts, for that reason too.

Beatrice is, without a doubt, my favourite of all Shakespeare’s characters. She is both sharp and fierce. Beatrice invented feminism, and we are just living but her rules.

I truly enjoyed this play, mainly because it overflows with wit and has a beautifully engaging set of characters. Furthermore, I applaud the play’s exploration of relevant themes such as betrayal, hypocrisy, and gender roles. (I can’t believe Shakespeare really brought light to the problem with gender roles.)

Please, let me know what to think about this film and play if you have watched or read it. And your experience with Shakespeare overall.
Bye, keep on reading.


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Paris, Texas (1984), by Wim Wenders – Film Review

Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders is the story about family and loss. The director uses themes of both brotherly relationships and fatherhood as a metaphor for man’s quest for personal identity, and he does it magically.

The fi out rst time we see Travis he is walking in Terlingua, a barren and dusty region of Texas. He isfilm-paris-texas-263 wearing a filthy suit along with a ragged red baseball cap. A bit into the film Travis reunites with his brother Walt Henderson, we know four years have passed since Walt and his wife Anne took responsibility for raising Travis’s young son Hunter. The story takes on from there.

The cinematography is poetic and there is a visual sense that contextualizes the characters’ feel of looming, present and past loss. Wenders shows us that his storytelling finds truth and poetry in the mundane. The film doesn’t need gimmicks or cliches to escalate emotional reaction from the viewer or create interest. This result is obtained simply by making the characters feel human.

All I can say is after I finished watching this masterpiece I was feeling everything and nothing at the same time. I don’t exactly look for this in a film, but once this feeling comes along, it’s hard to look at the art form in the same way ever again.

It’s a 9 out of 10. Please go and watch it now!

The Farewell, by Lulu Wang – Film Review

I’ll start by explaining what this film is about without any spoilers because this film is just too precious. The Farewell was directed by Lulu Wang and follows Billi a young woman who learns that her grandmother is sick and has a very short time left to live. To her surprise, the family decides not to tell her grandmother that she is dying. Instead, they arrange a wedding as an excuse for everyone to go back to China and see her one last time before she passes, almost like saying goodbye without being able to say it!the_farewell_poster

The film is able to approach the subject from both the western and eastern mindsets without diminishing neither of them, which for me was one of the greatest qualities of the story.  The Farewell is packed with complex characters who feel like real people, who have real conversations about topics that really matter. The film maneges to be funny between the sad moments giving it the levity that it needs, not the mention the amazing way in which the family bonds are portrayed.

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

I cried about 5 times during the entire film and one extra time once it ended. I’ll list the scenes that made me cry the most:

  1. When Billi speaks about how hard it was for her to leave China, the impact it had on her to not be able to be around her grandma as much and how painful it was to never be able to see her grandpa again given that her parents never really explained his death to her.
  2. I cried during the wedding part when Billi’s cousin starts to cry and we realize the all “thing” is really taking a toll on him too, even if for him the situation is sposed to be normal.
  3. The one that made me cry the most was when “Nai Nai” is talking to Billi and tells her that when the time comes for her (Billi’s) wedding she will give an even bigger party just because it was for Billi.

I can not end this without mentioning the shot of Billi running as fast as she can in order to get her “Nai Nai” medical results in order to get them before her, I truly loved it and the music for that shot was incredibly used (and in the entire film, overall).

(END OF SPOILERS)

Exactly as I wrote in my notebook after watching The Farewell: “I’m in love with this film, the soundtrack is 100% amazing and exactly what it had to be elevating the film to a whole other level. THANK YOU LULU WANG! This is excellent.”

I gave this film 9 out of 10!

Bye! Gotta watch ’em all!

Frances Ha (2013) – Film Review

Frances Ha by Noah Baumbach is a modern coming of age tale as well as a story about friendship. Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a 27-year-old dancer living with her best friend Sophie. Baumbach is a unique filmmaker, his movies tackle literally every subject matter while capturing real day-to-day life. In this film, he goes back to the basics of filmmaking: there are no complicated technics,  no colourfull shots and yet he manages to guide us through Frances complex life.mv5boty0ndq2nzq2n15bml5banbnxkftztcwmtu0otkwoq4040._v1_sy1000_cr006371000_al_

Frances’ life is as depressing and comedic as it is relatable, as far as the other characters go no one is overly dramatic. This shows us realism can be both depressing and unbelievably funny. As I see it, the film is centred in a friendship where one person wants to grow up and move on while the other is desperately holding onto the past in every way possible.

The director makes a homage to french new wave cinema and we can witness that in the scene where Frances running and twirling across streets of New York with David Bowie’s “Modern Love” on the soundtrack.

The script is so masterfully written by both Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, not to mention so brilliantly performed. This film is a masterpiece and I can’t recommend it enough.

I gave this film 8 out of 10.

Bye! Gotta watch ’em all!

Quote:

“It’s that thing when you’re with someone, and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it, but it’s a party and you’re both talking to other people, and you’re laughing and shining and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes but not because you’re possessive, or it’s precisely sexual but because that is your person in this life. And it’s funny and sad, but only because this life will end, and it’s this secret world that exists right there in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess.”

Only Yesterday (1991) – Film Review

“Perhaps my fifth-grade self is trying to tell me a new way to fly.”

Only Yesterday by Isao Takahata is an animation about Taeko Okajima, a young woman in the 80’s trying to get a sense of both herself and the world surrounding her.  The film is set during two timelines, the primary one occurring in 1982 when the main character is  27 years old and working in an office in Tokyo.

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Taeko is the youngest person in her household, that includes a lifeless father, a very concerned mother, a strangely distant grandmother and two older sisters. Our main character has all kinds of memories of her fifth-grade self, struggles with young love,  dealing with puberty, an early love for theatre and other frustrations and joys of being a kid in the late 1960s. But the one memories that struck me the most was one of the family trying their first pineapple and figuring out how to eat it. This shows the film is capable of finding beauty and charm in ordinary experiences.

The characters in Only Yesterday manage to have individuality and autonomy while being part of a whole, which is remarkable. The film is subtle and cleverly structured and the ever-increasing interaction with the surroundings cames of as a form of love for nature.

There is really nothing left for me to say, just go watch it. PLEASE

I gave this film 8.5 out of 10.

Bye! Gotta watch ’em all!

 

Booksmart (2019) – Film Review

“Booksmart” by Olivia Wilde tells us the story of two seniors, Molly and Amy, who are about to graduate high school and have spent their high school years exhaustively studying, never missing any school work whatsoever, because they believe this is the best and only way to get into a good university. They, all the sudden, find out that the other kids who have been partying and not taking school as serious as they have, have also gotten into good universities. With this, they feel like they should use this last night before graduation as an opportunity to not miss out on everything they have been passing up all these years.  mv5bmjezmjcxnja2nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjaxmdm2nzm40._v1_

This is a well-made comedy, directed by someone we can see understands the genera. Not the mention, the amazing performances by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever who really boost the film to the next level. The supporting cast is just as remarkably hilarious as Feldstein and Dever and is given something more to do than be the manifestation of high school stereotypes.

It really feels like you are there with Amy and Molly, the plot never seems to stop our slow down mostly because most of the film is about this one night of craziness. By the end of the film, you really feel like you have connected with these people and want them to be happy and fulfilled.

It is wonderful to watch a film dealing with strong and supportive female friendships and it is also exhilarating to see it take place in an environment like a high school field with diverse students.

This film feels unique and was probably one of the funniest films I’ve watched in a long time! It manages to be hilarious and heartwarming, it is just wonderful.  For me, it was an 8 out of 10, please go watch it!

Bye! Gotta watch ’em all!

 

The Lobster (2016) – Film Review

“The Lobster” from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, presents a dystopian society where being single is a criminal act. A breakup shoves the person left alone into the corner of society. A person has 45 days after the end of the relationship to find a new partner, if the person doesn’t find a match, he/she will be turned into an animal of his/her choice. The film manages to be close enough to our reality to leave us thinking. 57480f1d15c727dfd1e2f9d8de06e7a4

The film starts with David’s girlfriend breaking up with him, after that we see David on his way to a facility where single people try to find a mate and we can, at this point, notice that he is feeling both depressed and defeated. People in the film call this facility a hotel, however, to watchers, it looks more like an institutionalized environment to control human emotions.

In this word, there are so many dangers that come with being single that something as crucial to a relationship as personal-connection becomes not only impossible but irrelevant. To add to this lack of connection, “The Lobster” is narrated in a monotone by a character that only appears later in the film. Not to mention, the way people talk reveals a complete absence of nuance and subtext, there is noT only no emotion, but you are also aware of these people’s lack of life.

In my opinion, Lanthimos is trying to show us that our own society values couples more it values single people, that we see a relationship as an accomplishment bigger than a career or any other aspirations.

“The Lobster” is different, weird, unfamiliar and satisfying all in its ingenious way. I recommend you so savour it until its last drop of amazingness. For me, it was a 6.8 out of 10, only because the monotone of the narration made me feel uneasy!

Bye! Gotta watch ’em all!