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Author Archives: Kara

Best Served Cold (The Godfather)

"REVENGE"

A little side story to my first experience watching The Godfather was that prior to watching this film in class, I watched it in the comforts of my laptop. After sitting through the entire movie alone, I thought is was epic — until I found out (through the credits!) that it was my man Al Pacino all this time! Imagine the awe (and embarrassment!) I felt for not being able to recognize him–and absolutely having no idea that it was him! I know this paragraph probably reached the maximum number of exclamation points I’m allowed to used but finding out it was him just literally magnified the magnificence of the entire film for me.

I am a fan of crime stories but I never imagined what it was like on the other side of the fence. I do not know if what I’m feeling is morally correct (it probably isn’t) but I felt a sort of sympathy for the criminals’ side. But of course, although The Godfather possessed the power to make me feel that way, it still didn’t lessen the anger I had for my grandmother’s assaulter (see Zodiac blog entry).

The manner in which the Copolla showed us how beautiful revenge is made me appreciate the film so much. I never saw revenge in that kind of light and it somehow made me regard it as something so high with incomparable beauty. The film was brutally honest — showing no fear, hesitation and reservations at all. Although quite heavy for a sensitive person like me, it was a great experience nonetheless.

Amidst all the issues that faced this Mafia family, I somehow managed to focus all my attention to Connie’s situation. As a woman, I felt so much compassion and hatred for her at the same time. I feel for her because no woman must be treated that way, but I hated her so much because she allowed this to happen to herself. I also think of this sequence in a general point of view (and not only from a woman’s perspective) in such a way that the choices we make indeed are our own responsibilities in the end. For example, even though Sonny wanted to protect his sister, he could only do so much because she still decided to stay with her husband. And even though Michael took his life away, Connie threw a fit at him even though she knew that she was better off without him anyway.

In my analysis of this situations, I think that people find it hard to let go of something they had solely the choice of either going for or not. In Connie’s case, it was difficult for her to break free from the abusive relationship because at the back of her head, it was still “her choice”. And, really now, who would want to admit to making the wrong decision and regretting something you were once so sure of? The film sorts through all the kinds of human emotions there is, and this is probably the most significant insight I’ve grabbed from watching it. I like how it was beautifully sewn into the movie, without distracting the audience from the main story of the Corleone’s fight to keep the family safe, up, and alive in the midst of all the Mafia drama going on.

The Godfather also made me look beyond the limits of a father’s love and I found out that there are indeed none. A father’s undying love and support for his own child will forever remain with him until his last breath–and that’s exactly what Vito Corleone left us with. I like how the film shot his death in the tomato garden together with his grandson (Michael and Kay’s firstborn). This for me, was a sort of allusion to heaven — where, despite the dirty life he lived on earth, his good deed of establishing peace and not seeking vengeance for the death of Sonny, was enough for him to die a beautiful death with no regrets, just pure happiness and soliloquy.

I never expected something as violent and deviant (to the morals I was raised with) as The Godfather to make me think about these deeper things in life, but it did.

The Godfather moved me, so I guess its time I, like Luca Brasi in the first few scenes, give him my gratitude, thanks, and unwavering loyalty until the day I die.

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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Beating #1 (The Godfather Part II)

They say that nothing beats the original...

Whoever came up with the saying that nothing ever beats the original obviously has not seen The Godfather Part II. It is, with all respect to the first movie, indeed the better half.

Without going along the linear techniques of presenting the stories, The Godfather Part II gave the audience an entirely new experience. I believe that the problem with sequels are that they try to be so tight-knit with the original, that it loses the essence of being a separate film. This movie, however, embraces that individuality and captures the heart of any Godfather fan out there.

This film took the risk in devising the plot in an unconventional way. The stories are almost always cut at the most gripping parts, and then shifted back to a flashback of the past alluding to the events happening in the present. Although plot styles like this aren’t new to us, most viewers are suckers for this kind of approach. To me, at least, it allows us as the audience an entirely interactive experience by letting us “solve” the puzzle pieces ourselves. In contrast to a linear, traditional way of presenting cinema, this alternative method is preferred by more today. Not only does is challenge the director to push the potentials of his film even more, it also challenges the viewer to think instead of being a stagnant part in the cinematic journey.

The sub-plots in The Godfather Part II were very moving in a sense that the situations were clear, honest and realistic depictions of the problems among families today. There are issues on inheritance, quality time for family, unconditional love for a brother (or in this case, conditional), and so on. No matter what age, and what standing in life, there is sure to be at least one sequence throughout the entire film that one could relate to. I think this is also one of the reasons why it was such a success — it appealed to almost everyone, without sacrificing its artistic style and dropping into the traps of mainstream, “spoon-feeding-no-analysis-nor-thinking” type of films.

What’s problematic for me, however, was how the scene of Fredo Corleone being shot to death under the orders of Michael was viewed in passing. If you’re going to glorify such violence, then I hope they gave it at least a bit more air-time to allow the shock to sink in. I do not know whether its my principles that are being challenged, or I just really felt this as a fan wanting to know more, but whatever the reason behind it is, I wanted a little justice to be shown, at least. It’s not that I want to omit this scene altogether and leave Fredo alive, but it is that I feel like he deserved so much more than what he was given with. I think about the many little boys watching this film with their fathers and thinking its okay to kill a brother — and that bothers me a lot. Even though there were so much more killings that happened, somehow the idea of “losing the sense of family” hit me so much.

Despite my feelings of discomfort towards the violence shown to Fredo, I still am and will forever remain a fan of The Godfather Part II. It surpassed Part I in so many levels that I feel like I do not want to see Part III in the fears of it ruining the perfection that Part II left me with.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Hangover Schmangover (Punch Drunk Love)

No matter how bad a hangover is, there will always be a cure at the end.

If there’s any movie in this class that has disoriented me more than my difficulty in telling left from right, then Punch Drunk Love wins by miles. The supposed romantic comedy turned into a suspense thriller for me and I know that I’m probably the only one who feels this way. It’s not that I don’t get it, because I believe I do — it’s just that I wasn’t so sure if the feelings that the movie wanted me to feel reached me right.

The part when Barry Egan visits the girl in her condo and a certain “suspense” built around it was there, I screamed. But later on, I felt very stupid for “screaming” at a car whizzing by. It’s these unnecessary takes that leave me disjointed while watching the film. There was also the scene where Barry and Lena were in bed talking “dirty” to each other that disturbed me a lot. I know that it was supposed to show us how love can take on different forms and how their relationship is, although peculiar, real. But honestly, I felt scared during this scene. Yes, scared. I felt this certain fear because I thought that the “biting off of the cheek” or “ripping of eyeballs out” kind of dirty talk in bed (I really don’t understand how that can be romantic or funny, even!) would actually come true! I thought that Barry and Lena were going to murder each other or something just merely out of “weird, immense, inexplicable love”. I know that this idea is far-fetched and seemingly irrational, but I can’t help nor blame myself from feeling this because the movie actually had a lot of elements that did not really make sense at first blow.

I understand for example, how this relation illustrates love, or how the pudding coupons illustrate patience, but there is a need for me to exert extra effort to come to this understanding. I actually appreciate how the movie makes me think about the reasons why this is happening or why that is that, and giving me assurance that all my answers will be answered in the end. Unlike Primer which literally left me lost (and it’s still ongoing!).

Somewhere along the communication process, maybe I lost the real message. I was, like the colorful orbs and swirls in the movie, put in an unnatural and foreign place, not knowing what my purpose for being there is. But when the film ended, just how I was able to put sense into why the colorful orbs were there (which I feel that were there to compensate for the movie’s lack of “color” to set the mood and emotions), I was able to put sense into my finding my way through the complicated life of Barry Egan.

Punch Drunk Love is a film that made me think, exercised my ability to analyze, heightened my appreciation for cinema and taught me to be a more critical audience. It gave me a sense of fulfillment that even though I struggled to get through the movie, I was able to reach the finish line without any part of me thirsting for answers.

I was there. And although lost and confused — I was really there.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Relation(ships) / Relation(trains) (Hotel Chevalier and The Darjeeling Limited)

Life is what you make it --

Hotel Chevalier and The Darjeeling Limited are the perfect combination. I agree with how the order of these two films were shown in class, with Hotel Chevalier being screened before the The Darjeeling Limited.

I like that Hotel Chevalier was shown first because of how the short film lured us into wanting to know more about the characters’ lives. Since it was pressed for time and only a fraction of their “stories” were told, we as the audience try to make up our own theories about how the couple began. Short stories face the challenge of getting a person’s attention in such a short period, and I believe that Hotel Chevalier surpassed this hurdle without any difficulty at all.

The Darjeeling Limited however, was an excellent exploration of fraternal relationships. I like how it was juxtaposed with the train travels that they had. Just as they drifted apart after their father’s death, trains also go past us so quickly. And, as this fleeting moment is cut off by train stops, their sudden India adventure gets through the way and saves their brotherhood which they were almost close to losing.

The story-telling technique that the film used was very effective in such a way that the audience really felt like they were part of the adventure itself. There were a few funny moments (like the bindi scene, or the part where the brothers beat each other in their train cabin) to balance the serious matter / underlying emotional conflict among the family (brother to brother, brothers to their mother).

The whole sequence including the raging river situation down to the burial the brothers were invited to made me feel how heavy it is to lose someone — be it by death or by any other circumstance. This part in the film was, although not technically centered on the brothers, per se, the highlight and peak of the portrayal of the kind of relationship the brothers shared with each other. This is further amplified when the second trial of the “peacock feather ritual” was performed by the brothers with each of them accepting the individuality that the other one possessed. It showed how acceptance (and not just love) conquers all and settles the differences among disconnected people.

The Darjeeling Limited, with its vibrant colors and stylistic shots, add to the sort of grandiose celebration of life and love. I guess that’s what I mainly grasped from this film — that no matter who we are and where we might be, there is always reason to celebrate life (take for example the expected baby of Adam Brody and their temporary chance to be with their mother again). I noticed that there was a certain similarity with all the characters, each of them finding reasons why they must go on with “living” their lives.

Towards the end of the film, with the movie ending being the sequence of shots that were made to look like a train (although one shot was of an airplane cabin), we find the conclusion in all the stories we were told. This is an effective way to end the message it wishes to embed into their audience. I say this because just as they presented us with a relationship paralleled to that of a train’s fleeting moment, they end it with the same train but this time, the relationships all found solace and are together in embarking on their separate journeys.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Glitz and So-Called Glamour (Velvet Goldmine)

"Not all that glitters is gold."

Set in the glam rock decade, Velvet Goldmine is a film that celebrates individuality, music, and the beauty that comes with rock and roll. In an era where everything from the hair to the clothes and shoes stand out, it’s very hard to fit in society as a wallflower in the outskirts of town.

Although the movie supposedly is a breath of fresh air that brings us to the glory days of glam rock, I felt like the film overflowed with so much more sadness than jubilation. Sure there were the outrageous costumes and radical expressions of love, but beneath all that was a thick blanket of sorrow that no one in the film dare touched.

Beginning with the struggles of Bryan Slade to become the next big thing, starting off as a musical flop in one music festival with his attempts in being “different” (wearing the long robe and singing a weirdly written song) miserably failing at the end, shows us how the internal conflicts of the characters affect how they grow throughout the film. In this case for example, the struggle to find his identity was always ever-present – even at the expense of his own wife, and even if his career was already long-established.

Another reason why I feel like the film is a tool for magnifying the gravity of the characters’ unhappy situation is that Curt Wild’s character is primarily portrayed as a strong symbol but is then broken down into someone who is frail and very much dependent. I saw his relationship with Bryan Slade was a one-sided kind of thing. Even though he inspired Bryan, he wasn’t man enough to carry on and instead of being the person idolized, he turned out to be the one seeking for help amidst all the frustrations he is keeping inside (as seen in the scene inside the recording studio).

The most painful emotion conveyed to me in this movie, though, was the immense love of Mandy Slade for her husband to the point of sacrificing her own self for his own happiness. The sad part is that the love was never reciprocated the same way she deserved it, and no matter how hard she tried, there was no way but to get out of the partnership that won’t work. I saw this in the light of reality, in which sometimes we judge relationships and marriages that fall apart – without knowing how sometimes, we’re really just left with a choice between a commitment and a promise to love one’s self.

I felt pity for Arthur Stuart because of the repression he went through as a child. From the hiding of his “outfit” in a coat to his father catching him doing a “shameful act”, the lengths he went through are too much for a boy his age then could handle. It was because of the allusions to his childhood that I began to understand the character of Arthur. It was not clear to me at first why he acted in such way, but after the flashback memories, I was able to put things together.

Velvet Goldmine is a film that allowed me to go beyond what I saw and instill in me important thoughts on relationships and the inevitable sorrow that comes with it. As humans, our number one nature is interacting as social beings – and I can safely say that this movie tackled the complexity of relationships without discouraging us to love more and more.

No matter how radical or seemingly daunting love was portrayed in Velvet Goldmine, we still can’t deny ourselves from the fact that it’s a movie that makes you want to experience more in life – just to validate the emotions brought about watching the film.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Complicated Web (Spider)

Seeing (more than) Double

The opening scene for Spider made it clear to me that it wasn’t going to be an easy film. With the lack of background music, minimal dialogs, and a very flat tone to the movie, it was definitely hard to get engrossed in Spider right away.

Aside from these aspects, however, was a brilliant cast which expectedly delivered great acting. Miranda Richardson and Ralph Fiennes gave justice to the characters they were portraying and made us feel one and alive with the stories they each held. It was only when I saw the credits of the film that I realized Miranda Richardson played three roles. At first I thought I was “seeing things” so I ultimately dismissed the thought while watching the movie. “Maybe they just really look alike,” I told myself when I was lost in who played who.

It occurred to me that while this happened and my mind sort of disjointed from the string of events, I was being immersed in the very ordeals a schizophrenic goes through every day. From the confused state of what’s real and what’s fabricated in my mind, I honestly had a very hard time keeping up with myself.

During the scenes where the “mother” was supposedly buried are flashed, especially when Cleg says “I’m sorry.”, I feel a tinge of pain for the character. These were the scenes that really tried to connect with the audience in terms of piercing through the difficulty in matching up the only “real” pieces that are left of a person who is literally lost in his world.

Whenever Cleg mumbles or scribbles in his notebook, I feel like its the only thing thats keeping him sane. If we talk to our parents or friends for advice, he turns to no one but himself to help him out. There’s a certain feeling of elusiveness that Cleg gives out to me. I feel like he wants people to understand him while going through this recall of memory but at the same time, I feel like he wants his own sense of security and privacy as well (seen when he makes an effort to hide his journal).

Spider was a difficult movie to watch maybe because it tackled a complicated illness as well. Distorted realities are even harder to communicate across when film is actually a distorted reality in itself. As the audience, I was working my way through sorting out what was real in life, real in the movie, and real in Cleg’s world. It was like a juggling spree for someone who has never tried juggling before.

I appreciate, though, how the film really illustrated the “reality” of schizophrenia. I thought that they were brutally honest in terms of the emotional stress and physical manifestation of these feelings and how they affect the person diagnosed with it and the people around him/her. I think that filmmakers must create more films such as these as artistic ways to educating the people on the different challenges illnesses bring about to the families of those concerned. I believe that this will be an effective tool in heightening awareness among all people.

Spider is one movie I’ll never forget, but wouldn’t want to watch for the second time around. The pain and distress that comes with is just too real to experience again. I admire how the film was able to get under my skin, but I’m not quite sure if I want that feeling to take over me once more.

 
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Posted by on 24 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Paris-pectives (Paris, Je T’aime)

A kaleidoscope viewed from the inside and out, offering us many different perspectives in seeing what's in store for us.

Ending the semester with Paris, Je T’aime was the perfect way to cap off the first film class I have ever taken. With its nature being an anthology, I appreciated the fact that this film celebrated the many different styles of renowned directors, fusing all these short films into one great spectacle. Through Paris, Je T’aime, I was able to have a deeper appreciation of how every film has a unique way of conveying its own message.

The whole week since Thursday, my friends and I have shared links on Facebook carrying the theme song of the movie. I had it on loop last Friday because I just can’t get over how much the film created an impact on me! From the stories to the dialogs to the soundtrack of Paris, Je T’aime, everything simply fell into the right place.

My favorite sequences from the movie were the ones who involved a child in them. The first one was Parc Monceau (grandfather and baby Gaspard) and the second one was Loin Du 16 (mother and two babies). These particular sequences hit me the most because they are the truest form of love that is often neglected. Nowadays, when people talk about great love stories, they often refer to that of romantic affairs. Only a few of these kinds discussions pertain to the unconditional love of fathers and mothers, alike.

It is quite interesting for me to realize that since short films are restricted by the element of time, they must work with the little they have to get their point across. In Parc Monceau, the essential tool use was the well-written script. I like how it was written like a book that compels you to flip towards the next page right away. Through the power of toying around with words, it was able to create a conflict, climax and resolution all rolled up into an intense 5-minute run. This made me think about how some movies have the potential to be good ones, but are ruined by the neglect for a good script. Another well played short despite its time restrictions was Loin Du 16. Considering that it was bound by a script that was no less than a few phrases thrown around by the characters, it still was able to present us with a striking idea. What made this special was the shot sequences, allowing the audience to feel the distance between mother and child & the instinctive longing for one’s own offspring.

It is amazing to think about how these anthologies were able to present themselves to us in a way regular films would do. I never would have imagined that even though some theatric elements were lost (e.g. duration/time alloted, dialog/script, etc.), most, if not all, the films in Paris, Je T’aime are successful in their own little ways. There hasn’t been a film I’ve seen in a long time that allowed me to feel different kinds of emotions in one sitting — love, anger, confusion, hope and sadness. All these were constantly coming and going as the movie progressed. It kept me spinning around, with me almost losing my balance while trying to keep up with the surges of feelings that entered my mind.

Paris, Je T’aime almost made me break down. Just like how many little pieces complete the story of love, I guess it’s safe to say that the film also left me in pieces — pieces that are more open to different perspectives, pieces that celebrate life in a multitude of ways, and pieces that learned to understand the twists and angles of our distorted realities no matter how difficult they could be.

 
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Posted by on 24 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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