Thursday, March 28, 2013

Movies 101 – Persona

Persona – 83 min – NR

Alma (Bibi Andersson) is a young nurse who is charged with caring for a stage actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) who has stopped talking.  The doctors can’t explain why she has stopped talking so the head administrator suggest that Alma and Elisabet go to her coastal cottage to convalesce and see of that will help Elisabet to relax and get her voice back. While they are there Alma does all of the talking and Elisabet listens to her and starts to analyze her as if her nurse was a character study.  The two start to get a closer relationship and at times it almost seems like Alma is the one who needs the emotional help.  Alma starts to resent Elisabet and the two almost exchange places.  They leave the cottage separately without affection.

Now that synopsis really does not do this film justice.  It’s so much more a visual journey than a normal story people are used to today.  The prelude to the film has a lot of snap images that set the emotional tone of the film. Right off the bat this film put you in an uneasy state.  There is a small boy to sits up in what looks like a hospital bed and is looking at the blurry image of what looks like the main characters. After watching the movie that set up made me think that it starts out with the merging of these two people.  They the set and costume is all very barren, as if to give no distraction for the emotional journey of Alma.  Elisabet gives a wonderful performance with nothing more than her eyes and facial expressions.  There was some really great film work with using a break in the film to symbolize the break in their relationship.

This is the first Ingmar Bergman movie I have seen. I am intrigued by his imagery and his ability to tell a story. His minimalist approach of giving the subject a chance to sit front and center of the story is a refreshing change to my usual film experiences. One notable scene in this film is how Alma describes how Elisabet is a cold and remorseless woman who got pregnant only because she was told that she has everything except the experience of motherhood.  The first part of this scene was only  focused on Elisabet face as Alma goes through the events of this story, the very next scene is the same story only seeing Alma’s face and the two faces merge one half is Alma the other is Elisabet.  They are framed in complete symmetry.

My Take Away:

The influences of this film can be seen in other films like Mulholland Drive, Love and Death use the scene set up of having bother characters in the shot but one looking off screen right or left and the other character looking directly toward the camera with their eyes on the other character.  Visually the overlap almost gives the two characters a single body. The best way to describe it is when I saw this I thought it was one half of the brain talking to the other half.  Alma is the analytical side and Elisabet is the creative side.

I feel like today the story telling part of the movies that are coming out today are more focused on profit than substance.  Yes it’s a business and yes they are in it to make money.  BUT Ingmar Bergman was quoted as saying this about his work on this film.

“At some time or other, I said that Persona saved my life—that is no exaggeration. If I had not found the strength to make that film, I would probably have been all washed up. One significant point: for the first time I did not care in the least whether the result would be a commercial success…”

There has to be something freeing about an artist performing their art without the baggage of making money. And that is what this movie feels like to me, an opening of his soul and expression of his sprit.

What other movie do you know of that was a labor of love without regard of finical gain? 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Suggestions from the Twittersphere – Brick

So I thought I would try something new, I am asking the twitersphere if there are movies I need to see before I die. Asking the verse this question I was expecting a response like I normally get, a Spam account tacking on some virus laden link alongside my post in hope to snare some unsuspecting fish. I sometimes feel like I am talking to the big black when I ask question in social media. I started blogging so I could start a dialog with other people about really good movies, really bad movies hell any movie that could spark a conversation. Most of the time I get no response; however every now and again I get a response from someone. This time I got a response from @james_goggin his tweet said only five words, “Try Brick or The Limey.”

From that response an idea for a new feature on IMHO was born. I am going to not only highlight Movies 101 from RE’s list of 102 films (I am still working on that) but I am going to include movie reviews from suggestions I get from people on Twitter or Facebook. So here is how it goes, I am going to keep asking and getting suggestions of really good movies I need to see before I die. If you bring me something I have not seen I am going to make an effort to watch it. So here goes my review of Brick.

Brick - 110Min – R

Brick is a hardboiled detective story set in High school. I have seen this film classified as neo-noir. It mixes in the very dark story and characters and blends them in with the modern setting without making it about teenage angst. It is a true crime story with High school back drop.

Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a kid who does not belong to any click. He lives life on his own terms. An ex-girlfriend, Emily (Emilie De Ravin), calls him up and asks for his help. She ends up dead and he vows to get to the bottom of her death. He pushes himself into her world and tries to bring down whoever was responsible for her death.

This is an outstanding movie that everyone should see. Masterfully executed and has a mix of humor and action. It is every bit as thrilling as Chinatown and gripping at the Maltese falcon. Rian Johnson has a limited résumé but so far it’s a short list of wins. He worked with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper another great film. I have not seen Brothers Bloom but I am going to put it on my list.

The blending of this type of story in the setting they chose would not be a natural fusion, but they did a great job of making the elements work without too much adjustment of any of the characters to the overall plot line. There are some really excellent lines that Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers and I could see Humphrey Bogart saying them. Not that he was mimicking him, but he delivered them with the same power and bravado as some of Boggy’s no nonsense tough guys.

As this is a new feature I don’t have a set format for this kind of article. I am not going to do spoilers or a take away like in Movies 101. I am just going to say that this is absolutely one you need to see. Thank you to James for turning me onto this movie. If I were giving it a complete review on What is Showing Next I would give it a green light. This is exactly what I was looking for in asking my question, and I am glad I asked.

I saw this movie on Netflix watch it now. but you can see the whole thing on IMDB.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Guest Review - Sophie’s Secret – Whispers Book 1

From time to time I like to have people guest post on my blog. Please welcome Alia Gonzales who is an up and comming writer who is working on her book and took some time to shoot me a book review.

Sophie’s Secret – Whispers Book 1 by Tara West
Review by Alia Gonzales

The front cover of “Sophie’s Secret- Whispers, Book 1” had a very pulling quality and made me want to open the book, but I was poorly disappointed. The book was entirely focused on a teenager who was trying to get the cute boy in school to like her. The blurb that was listed next to the book when I purchased it listed it as a paranormal romance, and it didn’t fit that by much. While Sophie did in fact have a paranormal ability to occasionally read minds, it was by no means an important part of the book. Just from reading the clues of what was happening around her it wasn’t really necessary to have the rare moments she did read someone’s mind.

Sophie also has two other friends in the book who are listed as having paranormal abilities, but only rarely was it mentioned. Much like Sophie’s ability, the friends who were mentioned would have been just as important to the book without their abilities. They were only used as random intervals and played no part in the story or what was happening. When the different abilities were used, it felt very much as they were thrown into the story just so it could be categorized as paranormal, and not because it fit into the plot line. There were many different opportunities where it could have been brought more into light, or explained better, and it was left completely unanswered.

As an adult reading this book it really made me want to slap the main character. She was constantly trying to compare things like her having a crush on a boy as being just as important as her sister finding out she was pregnant and losing her husband. While I understand this book is geared towards teenagers it really felt like it made it hard to connect to what was happening in the book, and I felt absolutely no empathy for Sophie at all.

The book read very much as though I was simply reading a teenage girls diary. There wasn’t enough narrative to make me feel like I cared about any of the characters, and beyond wanting to complete the book; I felt no draw to really see what happened next. That being said, this could be a fantastic book for teenagers, primarily high school girls who may feel they’re going through the same hormonal and physical changes that are taking place in their lives. As a young adult book it can likely do a fantastic job of connecting with the young audiences and draw them into things like the dances and different classes the students are taking.

Give her a like on her facebook page and start a conversation with her.  I have a question, Do you think this would make a good movie?