Friday, October 17, 2014

CANIBAL
(CANNIBAL)

PELIKULA
SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3


I had my reservations about watching this film because I was under the impression it would show some really gory scenes. But it was not to be. Well I hope, I don't sound disappointed because I am glad with the way the film handled the cannibalism aspect.

Carlos is a prestigious tailor in a small town in Granada. But his well dressed and quiet demeanor exterior hides a chilling secret. He feeds on human flesh. But as I mentioned above, the film avoids gore but gets the point across in moments that do not involve actual.teeth.biting.into.raw.human.flesh scenes. Although the hunt and chase for his 'victims' is chillingly portrayed through silently haunting and terrifying vignettes.

Carlos is pretty much a loner, hardly socializes and does not really have any friends in town. But he is a much respected tailor and judging from his esteemed and well heeled clientele, he makes quite a good living as a tailor.  Things get a bit messy when his new neighbor Alexandra moves into the upstairs flat. A Romanian who speaks Italian, she is clearly a troubled soul and leads a chaotic life. A stark contrast to Carlos' ordinarily routine life.

An intriguing yet quiet attraction develops between the two of them, although neither of them act on it. Until one day, Alexandra just vanishes after she seeks Carlos help with a domestic dispute. A few days later, Nina her twin sister comes to investigate the disappearance and also finds herself drawn towards the reticent tailor who lives downstairs. She too is intrigued by the supportive Carlos who 'helps' her find Alexandra. Although, we know that he probably killed and ate her as well. 

As the film and their mutual attraction progresses, numerous questions abound. Little if ever any facts are known about Carlos. What drives him to kill women then eat them? Is he truly falling in love with Nina or is she just another victim for him? There are too many elements of the film and the characters themselves that is never really explored.  

As the 'secret' and twist is revealed towards the ending, the natural reaction of Nina is both shocking and a bit underwhelmed, to say the least. Until the final scene of reckoning for Carlos comes to a close, the film barely answers any of the questions that twirls inside the audience's discerning minds. 

The cinematography though is top notch with vividly clear scenes of a small town, the snow capped mountain (where he vacations in his cabin) which all nicely capture the quiet nature of both the main character as well as the manner the film unfolded across the screen.

Although I was relieved that the depravity of its main character was not exposed through bloody and messy scenes, I was also disappointed that the audience is simply made to accept Carlos for what he is - a cannibal who just happens to be a tailor!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

LA GRAN FAMILIA ESPAƑOLA
(FAMILY UNITED)

PELIKULA
SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3


People who regularly read this blog would know by now that I simply love voice-overs in movies. So the moment I heard a voice over annotating this Spanish comedy/drama, I was hooked.

It starts with Ephraim, the youngest of five brothers narrating that he and his siblings were named after the characters in his father's favorite film "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". The brothers were named alphabetically from the Bible and in chronological order: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel and Ephraim. That they are two brothers short is beyond the point. 

Early on, it is established that Ephraim is getting married on a very important date. It just happens to be the day of the 2010 World Cup finals where Spain will meet Holland in the finale. 

All the numerous characters loaded with a gamut of facial expressions, peculiar behaviors and multiple traits are introduced through various scenes that all blend together. As expected, there are also various sub plots that touch on family secrets, infidelity, sibling rivalry, and many intrigues, which intertwine together and combine to produce one charmingly chaotic yet very well developed story line.

"Family United" (its English title - even though you don't need to be fluent in Spanish to understand that the real translation is "The Grand Spanish Family") mixes the two big passion of Spain - football (or soccer as it is known in other parts of the world) and family. Throw in a wedding setting and naturally a lot of dramatic and poignant moments tinged with really funny scenarios are bound to amuse the viewers.

It is the performances of the ensemble cast which really stand out and no matter how different their personalities are, the 5 brothers prove that what really counts is la familia! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

TODAS LAS MUJERES
(ALL THE WOMEN)

PELIKULA
SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3


This film explores in depth how a guy experiencing a crisis decides to approach all the women in his life for sound pieces of advice. Typical, no? Men cannot solve their problems without consulting the brainier specimen of the human species. Ha!

Kidding aside, you have to prepare yourself to listen closely to the dialogue since the film plays out in the various conversations that Nacho (Eduard Fernandez) has with the different women who have in some way or another influenced him his entire life.

Nacho, a 40 something vet finds himself in a bind after he stole 5 heifers from his father-in-law which he attempts to sell in Portugal. But his plan goes awry when the truck carrying these goods crashes somewhere along the route. His marriage is on the rocks so he cannot really talk to his soon to be ex-wife about his plan since he schemed it with his young mistress.

He turns to an ex-flame who tells him to confess and ask for forgiveness. After ignoring her suggestion, he approaches his mother. A wise woman who is willing to put up half of the money he lost yet at the same time suggests it might be best he goes to jail for his 'crime'. Two more women are consulted and both of them still unable to influence Nacho in a way that he thinks will be beneficial for his own good.

Nacho's common line is that "I'm not a bad person" like this statement would somehow justify his failed plan. Yet in some quiet and subtle manner, each of the conversations he has with these women, mark his ego and his conscience with self awareness of his own failings (not just with the heifers but in his life!) whether he cares to admit it or not. 

Great acting from Eduard Fernandez (an actor I've seen in several Spanish films) whose nuanced expressions reveal a gamut of emotions billowing inside his tension filled brain. Although there is no specific conclusion on how he intends to solve his massive problem, from the conversations alone, one can ascertain that Nacho (whatever he decides to do) will hopefully become more mature and wiser moving forward in his life's journey.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WISH I WAS HERE

Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, 
Joey King, Jason Gad, 
Mandy Patinkin

"Life is an Occasion.
Rise to It"


Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is down on his luck. A struggling actor who can't get past auditions, his only brother Noah (Josh Gad) is a bum, his kids' education in a private school is threatened as Aidan's father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) is terminally ill with cancer so he can no longer afford to pay for their tuition fees.

So Aidan decides to home school them and in the process he teaches them about life. He re-discovers himself and makes life altering decisions about his career, his family and life itself. His volatile past with his strict father helps him make different choices in his parenting style, he courses an alternative path for his career and his relationship with his estranged father is renewed.  

A good family movie that teaches us that the manner in which we were brought up should not be a deterrent or a hindrance to the way we wish to approach our careers, how to raise our kids and just live life as we envision it for ourselves.  

Plenty of life lessons can be learned from "Wish I was Here" as most of the stars give good performances without being overbearing or preachy in their technique of essaying flawed characters whose personalities mimic our own shortcomings and weaknesses. 

I admit I never watched Zach Braff in "Scrubs" but I find myself drawn to his style of writing and directing movies which have a massive appeal since he caters for ordinary people with supposedly boring yet very ordinary lives.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, F. Murray
Abraham, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray,
Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum,
Tony Revolori, Edward Norton


From the director who gave us such distinctively quirky films such as "The Darjeeling Limited" and "The Royal Tenenbaums", comes another gem hemmed from his brilliantly creative mind - The Grand Budapest Hotel.

It recounts the adventures of a hotel concierge named Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) who along with his lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) set out to unravel the truth behind the mysterious death of one of its distinguished guests. 

What ensues are well crafted scenes upon scenes of complex framework of the narratives being presented through a visually vibrant cinematography, from symmetrical shots, to characters running in slow motion, as well as chase scenes, and explanatory montages - all of which are typically expected and pleasantly anticipated from a Wes Anderson penned film.

The plot itself is quite funny and captivates the audience with its sublimely awkward to the point of being outright ridiculous (in a good way, if there is such a thing!) story line and its numerous yet essential side plots. 

Having said that, I admit there are some shortcomings like certain situations are sometimes built up and then let off easy. Regardless, it didn't detract too much from the main essence of the film -  the beautiful account of the friendship that forms between a poor lobby boy and the legendary concierge who took him under his wing.

Plenty of major stars (Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Adrien Brody, Jude Law to mention a few) add support to the main characters. Even though some appear briefly or in cameo parts, all of them lend credence to the merry assortment of interesting characters they each play.

I could go on and on about the good merits of this whimsical film but I'd recommend that you watch it with an open mind, so we could all nod our heads in agreement and proclaim that this may be the best film yet from director Wes Anderson.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

UNA PISTOLA EN CADA MANO
(A GUN IN EACH HAND)

(SPAIN)
CINE EUROPA 17
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex


Rarely do films focus on the emotions or sentiments of men. Perhaps because we associate feelings with women, that somehow men are incapable of being sentimental or emotional. Well, we are in luck since this Spanish film gives us a welcome glimpse into the lives of eight men in their 40s who are suffering some form of identity and/or relationship crisis.

It is presented in five different vignettes that exposes the deepest secrets, fantasies, emotions and sexual fears of these men. The execution of this concept is through several conversations which involve one or two of the eight men at any one time and through their dialogues, a series of details expose bit by bit their lives to some extent. Some details are implied, other facets are openly discussed. All shared with no qualms, no inhibitions and it seems as if they were not aware of any camera taping their conversations. It is that candid and the acting of the ensemble cast of credible Spanish actors is top notch.

Adultery, regret, lust, inadequacy and betrayal are some of the emotions showcased as the men show themselves as vulnerable and incapable of relating to intimacy or are poor at properly communicating their feelings.

The film has some engaging moments although some vignettes are more successful than its whole. Eventually, a party towards the ending reveals that these guys know each other in one way or another. As they socialize with each other, their innermost feelings are once again hidden and only the audience is aware of their flaws and their insecurities. And we are none the wiser for it!
 

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