Moonrise Kingdom (Dir: Wes Anderson, 2012)
"I think you've still got lightning in you."
I am a Wes Anderson fan. I guess to be one you have to love the little details and characteristics of his present in all of his films- the characters, the look, the sound etc. We have eccentric, troubled, but very efficient characters, who are often brilliant children. There is Bill Murray playing some sort of a loser (haven't seen Steve Zissou so I don't know how his character is in it). The colour palate is bright and orange-y and the music is very 60s and happy. Moonrise Kingdom has all of that, but it also has this unreal beauty about it. It is like something out of one of Suzy's books. All of Anderson's films are beautiful to look at, but Moonrise Kingdom beats them all and I honestly think it is one of the most gorgeous looking films I have ever seen. Maybe it is because I have always lived in the city and the natural settings, all which were filmed around Rhode Island, are so singularly lovely that I could not help but feel happy and wistful just looking at the film. And that is even before I come to the story. I thought it was adorable. Anderson wrote it with Roman Coppola. The story too makes me feel the same way as the look of the film does- finding the perfect childhood love seems so magical and impossible, and then running away with them against all odds, heck even being struck by lightning and surviving that! Yes there are some oddities and not everything fits as perfectly as one would wish, but the overall feeling from the film negates all that and it just fills one with so much wonder and longing for a place and time like Moonrise Kingdom.
It is interesting to note that the kids playing the protagonists, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward don't even feature on the film's absolutely stunning poster. I guess the big Hollywood names are what draws the audience in, but really they are only the supporting cast. My favourite from the supporting cast is definitely Edward Norton, who plays the Scout Master Ward who is kind of an oddball himself (duh) and really concerned for the kids. But the real heroes of the film are very much Sam and Suzy. They are awkward and not the most polished actors, but personally I found it very endearing and sweet. I guess kids are like that after all. I thought Suzy especially was facially very expressive and natural and has become my mini Margot Tenenbaum. I might have to rewatch some of the other Wes Anderson films before I can definitely decide, but right now I do think this is my second most favourite offering by him, after the amazing Rushmore.
Festen/The Celebration (Dir: Thomas Vinterberg, 1998)
"Here's to the man who killed my sister... to a murderer."
Basic plot- It is Helge's 60th birthday and his whole family has gathered in the family-run hotel to celebrate it. His eldest son Christian has come from Paris to attend it, and so have the other two surviving children of Helge and his wife Else, Helene and Michael. Their fourth child, Linda, who was Christian's twin, recently committed suicide and the family is hoping to move past that with this celebration. Except when it starts, some unsavory secrets of the family start pouring out...
I had heard about Festen, but it was after watching the celluloid vs digital filmmaking documentary, Side By Side, that I got really interested in watching it. And I am so glad I have. I love films about dysfunctional families, and this might become my most favourite yet. It is about as messy and crazy and emotionally affecting as you want a film about a fucked-up family to be. There are a lot of parts which make one very uncomfortable. For example when the whole gang starts singing a racist song with Helene's black boyfriend in the room. The story is a simple and effective one, but it is the characters and the camerawork that makes it work so well. The characters were really varied and the actors did great justice to them. We have the silent and tortured Christian, played by Ulrich Thomsen, the repressive Helge, played by Henning Moritzen, the fun-loving but conflicted Helene, played by Paprika Steene and the boorish and thoughtless Michael, played Thomas Bo Larsen. There are a lot of other characters in the film, a whole party of them literally, but these four are the main ones and Thomsen especially is great.
As I said, I got into the film when its cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle spoke about it in Side By Side. It was the first Dogme 95 film and it was shot using video cameras only, which was both revolutionary and controversial at the time of its release. I will say that at first this style irritated me a bit, but as the film went on it just added to the experience. Like there is a part when a character gets thrown out of the dinner room and the hotel and the way his return is shot is so powerful and impactful. It also gave the film a unique look which I liked very much, along with making it all the more uncomfortable because it felt as though I was there will the party when well, all the shit is going down. A truly brilliant film.
Your Sister's Sister (Dir: Lynn Shelton, 2012)
"You're on an island, it's three in the morning and you're drinking by yourself. What's going on?"
Basic plot- Even after a year of his brother's death, Jack is struggling with his emotions and his life. His best friend and brother's ex-girlfriend Iris tells him to go stay at her father's isolated house as a way to rejuvenate himself. However when he arrives there, he sees that Iris's older sister Hannah has moved in, after breaking-up with her long-term girlfriend. That night, after a lot of tequila-drinking, Hannah and Jack decide to take an unexpected step together, due to which things get complicated, and even more so when Iris suddenly shows up the next day.
I thought this was such a lovely little film. After watching it, I felt incredibly happy just thinking that one does not need big budgets and fancy schmancy special effects and whatnot to make movies, just great actors and a human story. All the three actors- Mark Duplass who plays Jack, Emily Blunt who plays Iris and Rosemary DeWitt who plays Hannah, were in top form. I am not going to elaborate on the story, except that Jack does in a way get between these two loving sisters and it is pretty funny and heartwarming. You have to watch it to enjoy it. The writing is witty and touching, and the three actors really bring it to life. Shelton wrote and directed it. The setting is very pretty and scenic and that just adds to this film.
Your Sister's Sister highlights the importance of both friendship and family. I thought it was refreshing the way the relationship between Iris and Hannah is shown, albeit a bit unbelievable for me since my brother and I are always at each other's throats when we are together. Still the kid does idolize me a teensy bit, and I thought this sibling love was really sweet. Blunt and DeWitt were very genuine in their parts. I especially loved the vulnerability of Blunt, who is just such an excellent actress. Also Duplass, who I recently saw in Safety Not Guaranteed which is another good indie film, fits right into this picture and relates to both these ladies very well. All the three characters were so likeable that it is difficult not to watch this film without a smile plastered to your face. Still, it does have its wonderful poignant moments that tugs your heartstrings a little. A real indie gem.
The Girl (Dir: Julian Jarrold, 2012)
"Blondes make the best victims. They're like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints"
Basic plot- HBO's TV movie The Girl shows the relationship between legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and model-turned-actress Tippi Hedren from when he discovered her and throughout the filming of their two films together, The Birds and Marnie. It explores the psychological and sexual abuse that she received from Hitchcock during this part of their lives.
So The Girl painted Hitchcock, THE Alfred Hitchcock, as an insecure little sadistic creep. Eh, who cares? Most of the reviews I have read of it seem to hate it because they are more or less outraged by this aspect of it. But it is one somewhat warped view of a very complex and cool man. I didn't really mind it because it has done nothing to change my view of how Hitchcock was, and more importantly, how brilliant his films were. Actually Toby Jones superbly eerie portrayal of this evil incarnation of Hitch made me appreciate the film. And seriously, I think I enjoyed it more than everyone else (evidently) because I liked the performances in it so much. Jones's Hitchcock was more sinister than any of the villains in any Hitchcock films that I have seen (which admittedly are not that much) except maybe the birds in The Birds themselves. But he was also pathetic and sad. Sienna Miller too was really good as Hedren. She was the heroine who saved her integrity from this big, powerful man and was rather believable as that. My absolutely favourite performance in it though was of Imelda Staunton as Alma Hitchcock, Hitch's poor, neglected, perceptive, brunette wife. At the risk of sounding highly clichéd, there is so much she says without saying anything at all. I felt even more sorry for her than Hedren. Her performance is definitely going down as one of my favourite supporting performances of the year.
Another thing I liked about The Girl is when they show the filming of The Birds and Marnie. I loved how The Birds was actually shot in a studio and that Hedren was, very villainously, made to react to real birds being flown (thrown?) at her in the studio for five days to film the attic scene and many other such "behind the scenes" things. How her horror was always real, because of Hitch. How Hitch just sat there in a trance, seeing her getting hurt and being traumatised. Personally I felt that some of his steps, no matter what the ulterior motives might have been, were necessary because he was, after all, making a movie and he wanted to make the best he could. Geniuses are often a bit crazy, but what they leave us with is so amazing that we have to accept them- all of them. Also this film made me want to watch more Hitchcock (more than usual that is) and I did end up watching Marnie right after it. No way I will ever voluntarily watch The Birds again obviously, but it is intriguing to think how such films were made possible. Plus I really want to see Hitchcock now, to compare and also because it explores the relationship between Hitch and Alma. Poor Jones, the last time he made a biopic, Infamous, it was in the same year as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Capote. And now this... Anyways, my final verdict is that even though The Girl shows us this twisted Hitch, if it ends up making one want to watch more Hitchcock films and as a result discover what he really was, which is a visionary and a true master of suspense and someone who daringly explored the human psyche (like in Marnie), all is good.