Inside Llewyn Davis d. by Coen Brothers- In a year where American Dream themed films were quite popular, Inside Llewyn Davis felt like the opposite of them, a sincere story of mediocrity and failures, which has become a trademark of Coen Brothers film-making style. The film is entirely focused on the Llewyn Davis character, it doesn’t even bother creating a plot.
Llewyn Davis is a representative of the authenticity in people’s life, he refuses to budge and sell-out because even though he is self-centric and obnoxious, he is not aiming to be a folk-star and living the dream, he just wants an honest pay for his efforts. He keeps being refused by the industry over and over and this creates a pattern in his life, a cyclical pattern when one resorts to “I don’t care anymore” motion, you know when you hit that first obstacle and settle for mediocrity while Bob Dylan is right around the corner waiting to shake the world in a matter of moments and when he does, you won’t be there because you didn’t care anymore.
Just to be clear, this isn’t a glorification of “work hard -> opportunity -> success” story but it’s quite a real observation of some people’s carelessness towards success, or life in general. 7/10
The Grand Budapest Hotel d. by Wes Anderson - You know when there is that thing you really want to like, but you just can’t? This is my issue with the new Tarantino and W. Anderson movies. I was not very impressed by Inglorious Basterds but I wanted to like Django Unchained since it was being hyped so much and you know how far Tarantino hype goes, I went to see it straight in the theater when it was premiering in my town and I can’t remember when did I leave a theater so frustrated. This is repeated with the Anderson’s TGBT. I wasn’t very much into Moonrise Kingdom, but seeing the reviews and the praise TGBT got, I wanted to believe that this time I won’t be disappointed. So again, I went to see it straight into the theater and it’s more or less the same reaction.
I am not saying this was a bad movie, by no means. It’s just that all this vintage, stylish and quirky setting from Anderson is not really my jam. Similarly like Moonrise, TGBT entertains you in terms of visuals and it’s from occasionally funny but I found it to be a tad too pointless for my taste. It has been a week since I saw it and I already forgot what the plot was (let’s agree that character development is not something we should really focus on Anderson’s new work). I know I am barking in the wrong tree here but I know I won’t be rushing to see the new Wes Anderson film. 5/10
Stranger by the Lake (L’inconnu du lac)d. by Alan Guiradie - or else known as the “the other French queer movie of 2013” is actually a better film than Blue is the Warmest Color (just for comparison sake) simply because it’s not a film centered around gays and controversy that goes with it. Yes, there are way too many needless explicit sex scenes but despite that the film never loses itself on them (which was not the case with Blue). I have to admit, it took me a while to get into the movie (I very much thought about pausing it halfway), the simplicity of it all almost fooled me and it’s only when the end comes that I finally start to realize that this was actually a very well done film with a clear message to it.
The minimal settings make a valid ground for the characters to come and look what they’re looking for. There isn’t a more basic need for humans than companionship and love, so this becomes a central theme on this film. This is best reflected through two characters, Franck and Michel, the former which resonates the need for appreciation and the latter presents that emotional blockade who continuously refuses to attach to anything bigger than sex. Progressing through the film these becomes clashing factors which will result with an unresolved ending but that is overshadowed by the power of that last scene where the “loneliness is worse than death” point is so emotionally wrenching. 7/10
A Touch of Sin (Tian Zhu Ding) d. by Jia Zhangke - This was one of my most anticipated movies of 2013 since it got rave reviews in Cannes Festival from some of my favorite critics. I am glad to say that my expectations were fully met.
There are 4 stories in the film sequentially shown after approximately 30 minutes. Personally I thought that the three stories (1st, 3rd and 4th) had a similar pattern in terms of showing the struggle of the people involved with the nature of China’s recent economic and industrial boom (corruption, injustice, low-paying industrial jobs, denigrated service labor, women objectification etc) and their eventual closure in the end but the 2nd story looked a bit different in that sense.
To not be mistaken, this film hasn’t got a connection arc like anthology movies seem to have (Alejandro Inarritu’s Amores Perros & Babel), some of this actually happened and Zhangke adapted them so well in order to watch the movie through perpetrators lens challenging the audience with a different reality that they’re taught in the media.
This might be the reason this film is yet not cleared to be shown in Chinese theaters but Zhangke proves once again he is the leader of the Chinese Fifth Generation film-makers steadily getting away from the glorification of the past and focusing deep on the current societal struggle in China. As much as this approach is fresh and inspiring it’s also proves to be a weakness since throughout the film we see Zhangke trying to install a very negative feeling toward the system and this shifts the balance of the film to some extent. 9/10