Friday, July 3, 2020

The Coca-Cola Kid

Director: Dusan Makavejev
Screenplay: Frank Moorhouse
Cast: Eric Roberts, Greta Scacchi, Bill Kerr
Year: 1985
Country: Australia








The Coca-Cola Kid is a rather unique film. It offers the viewer an eccentric romp through the world of a American Coca-Cola marketing executive as he tries to expand company business in Australia and ends up going head-to-head against a local soft-drink maker. This on-the-surface plotline is developed alongside a will-he/won't he romance between the Kid and his secretary.

With a few rousing jingles thrown in that ostensibly hail the drink, The Coca-Cola Kid threatens, at times, to become a long advert for the company and its ethos, Makavejev, however, performs the nimblest of juggling acts by just about managing to avoid vacuity and turns the pomp and show into a palatable romantic adventure.

The inspired casting choices of the coquettish Greta Scacchi as Terri the secretary and the sporting Eric Roberts as Becker the Coca-Cola executive aid Makavejev's quirky screen direction and make the movie what it is. A final framing of Roberts is suggestive of the director's unique perspective.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenplay: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Harry Melling, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Jonjo O'Neill
Year: 2018
Country: USA













Six journeyman, independent tales etching with vivacious colour and deft discernment life during prospecting times in the erstwhile Wild West. The Coens, tried and tested masters of the genre and the filmmaking craft, draw the viewer in naturally with their sharp screenwriting, now-familiar witty dialogue and immersive visuals. Though the titular episode is probably the weakest of the six with its stagey sets and offhand whimsy, it sets up the drama of the following segments quite well.

The pick of the segments is perhaps the penultimate one, The Gal Who Got Rattled, which weaves in gentle humour and ends with a shock and in the process draws a quirky performance out of Zoe Kazan. In a melange of striking portrayals, the most striking is that of Harry Melling as the itinerant elocutor in Meal Ticket. 

Little can be said of the Coens' superlative work that hasn't already been said, and this film is no exception in enduring filmmaking quality. The brothers have a gift for making the ordinary spectacular and the extraordinary blase, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs achieves cinematic brilliance effortlessly.

The Lighthouse

Director: Robert Eggers
Screenplay: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe
Year: 2019
Country: USA















Robert Eggers crafts a nightmarish scenario with Max Eggers and brings it to life with the help of convincing character-work from Robert Pattinson and veteran Willem Dafoe. More ghastly and claustrophobic than truly horrifying, The Lighthouse makes maximal use of a barren rock and its accompanying, titular lighthouse as a backdrop for the madness of isolation in extreme circumstances.

Dafoe's gruff sea-dog Wake and Pattinson's scruffy pup Howard go at it for the better part of two hours as the waters around the island turn hostile and tempers get frayed. Magnificent accent-work (bar an oversight here or there) prevents the action from getting stagey and allows Eggers' visuals to test the viewer's sobriety, as the characters test their own. While a genuine off-the-beaten-track picture, The Lighthouse does not reach the heights The Witch did, though it does embroil the viewer in its paranoia.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Blue Valentine

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Story: Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
Year: 2010
Country: USA















A tale of sputtering romance between a working class Joe and a doctor that makes a dramatic switch some way through from lazy domesticity to moody immersion into quick exchange and fallout. Though the music is not bluesy, the lighting and lenswork reflect the blues that the couple experience. Flashbacks are deftly woven in and used to summary effect in the concluding sequence.

An engaging film that delves into the gritty side of suburban romance, the graininess of the content somewhat overplayed by the film stock used. The character of Dean (Ryan Gosling) is particularly well-sketched out with his relationship with his adopted daughter a cornerstone, Cindy (Michelle Williams) could have done with a greater motivational arc, but the movie succeeds in carrying a degree of warmth despite this.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Hagazussa

Director: Lukas Feigelfeld
Screenplay: Lukas Feigelfeld
Cast: Aleksandra Cwen, Tanja Petrovsky
Year: 2017
Country: Germany















A hauntingly shot film set in the stunning wintry Alps, Hagazussa tells the simple story of a witch but does so with telling camerawork that makes the experience deeply felt. Though sometimes the director's eye for the visual distracts from the narrative impetus, the atmospheric music keeps the viewer immersed in the film.

The film is director Feigelfeld's debut feature and his graduation film, so mistakes are to be expected, but the overall ambient effect achieved is remarkable for a young director. The set design, where required, is as impressive as the location shooting and achieves a unity of vision that builds up the immersion. A memorable audio-visual experience of sparse heathen horror.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Diamantino

Director: Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt
Screenplay: Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt
Cast: Carloto Cotta, Cleo Tavares
Year: 2018
Country: Portugal














 An absurdist farce denigrating a Portuguese footballer touted to be the world's best. While mocking the acclaim footballers have and the power they wield may be a normal thing to do in today's world, Diamantino takes this trope a little too far to present us with some vicious maltreatment of the footballing dream.


There are some striking images in the film, so the technique is not lacking. The content, however, is entirely caustic at a low-brow level. Not a great film but one that is interesting for what it says about the times we live in.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The River

Director: Jean Renoir
Story: Rumer Godden
Cast: Thomas E. Breen, Patricia Walters, Radha, Adrienne Corri
Year: 1951
Country: France, India
Language: English














A film made by a French director in the English language and based in rural Bengal in India needs to be made with a careful, discerning eye, otherwise, it is likely to pull apart in contrary directions and, unfortunately, that is largely the feel of The River. Renoir's panache for theatre-brought-to-screen remains but unlike a Rules of the Game, The River's action ends up appearing stagey and less than convincing. The term theatrical, here, is applicable in its disparaging sense.

Very little happens in the film and the love-quadrangle evolves not much and feels like an extended vignette, extended a little too long without much development. While The River may be commended as a film that shows a neat little slice-of-life in quaint rustic India, this sort of film-making is bound to age poorly and the film, today, is a rather dull experience.