Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Film Review - "The Artist" directed by Michael Hazanavicius

The Artist (2012)                     

An ode to the pre-talkies era, The Artist is up to win ten nominations including big prizes 'Best Picture', 'Best Actor' and 'Best Director'. For a film of few words (completely silent, shot in the classic black and white frame) it seemed a surprisingly natural viewing experience. Without the ability to lure audiences with witty one-liners, comedic sarcasm or romantic dialogue – The Artist draws upon simple, physical humour and sincere human emotion. It's an enjoyable watch, especially for cinephiles, and the loveable dog Uggie almost steals the show!

Jean Dujuardin is George Valentin- a much-loved silent movies actor, whose facial expressions and bold gestures cause his audiences to laugh in an uproar (or at least they look like they're enjoying themselves.) At one of his many film premieres he stumbles upon a keen fan, the young fresh-eyed Peppy Miller (played by Argentine beauty Berenice Bejo). Later, she progresses into the world of Hollywood glamour and fame by starting out as an extra, and then wooing film executives with her dancing skills, cheeky smile and emotional delivery. Ultimately, we follow Valentin's demise as an actor, when he refuses to accept the new technology of 'talkies' films- showing how quickly fame can disappear and loneliness ensue.

The Artist was shot in lower resolution frames and the classic silent film screenshot ratio to create a more authentic piece. Interestingly, the screenplay itself took longer to write than the actual production process- with the film swiftly completed in LA over 35 days. It is clear that Hazanavicius has done his research and his cinematographer Guillame Schiffman beautifully shot the scenes with soft lighting, atmospheric background and character focus. The combination of original supporting music (Ludovic Bource) and slick alluring costumes (Mark Bridges) articulates the vision of 1920s Hollywood the film aims to portray. The combination of American and French staff on set brings European sensuality to a traditional American creation.

There is a rather simple structure, the film follows the characters chronologically throughout their Hollywood careers and there are few settings – the filming studios, the stars' homes, the public cinemas. However, it's hard for any audience member- young, romantic, cynical or learned- not to appreciate the creativity and refinement which oozes out of this timeless, romantic classic.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Top 10 romantic movie moments

Regardless of the genre or time period, a romantic bond between the two main characters in a film has conquered the hearts of its audience. From the heartbreaking scenes to dramatic declarations of love, each of the films below has its own moment which really stands out in time as a romantic on-screen moment. Interestingly, for half of them the lovers sadly do not end up together at the end of the film. For Valentines Day, here is my top 10 romantic movie moments- most of them familiar:

1. The Notebook- "It still isn't over!"
There's something about reconnected lovers that seems to make for a great narrative- Noah and Allie, young lovers, are separated for a number of years, but when they reunite sparks fly and their passion is brought to the surface. This scene takes place in the pouring rain soundtracked by dramatic strings but it's a cliché that difficult to resist.

2. Romeo + Juliet- Meeting through the fish tank
Baz Luhrmann's stunning cinematography is showcased at this point of the film when the famous young lovers meet. He has drawn from Shakespeare's original imagery to depict the fantastical costumes and aquarium setup, and a young DiCaprio and Claire Danes naturally communicate the youthful innocence of first love. Soundtracked by Des'ree's 'Kissing You', it's both emotionally charged yet so simple.

3. Pride and Prejudice- "Surely you must know, it was all for you."
The 2005 adaptation of Austen's much-loved book saw a strengthening of the developing romance between Elizabeth Bennet and the classic heartbreaker Mr Darcy. In this scene, the troubled lovers, who have previously refused a relationship due to their own pride, now realise that they are unable to control their sensitivities. They meet each other at dawn in the fields and Mr Darcy articulates almost too perfectly how he feels - a tender monologue that would melt anyone's romantic doubts.

4. Love Actually- "To me, you are perfect."
A more unconventional love story, the narrative that seemed the most poignant was Mark's muted declaration of love to his best friend's new wife Juliet. In a quiet yet theatrical manner, he progresses through hand-written posters explaining his unrequited feelings. What makes this moment so romantic, is that he pronounces his timeless adoration, but accepts its impossibility- an admirable act.

5. Titanic - "I'm flying"
One of the most successful and popular romantic movies of all time, Titanic plays upon the classic rich-girl-falls-in-love-with-the-wrong-poor-boy setup. Jack woos her with his daring and grand gestures, and he is absolutely in control during the entire scene. Perhaps it's Rose's ultimate trust in this stranger or the audience's knowledge of the miserable ending that makes it so touching. It's also a sensational first kiss.

6. Moulin Rouge!- Come What May
The only thing better than an on-screen heart-wrenching dialogue is the same scene performed in a musical. In the film's dramatic finale, courtesan Satine accepts her sincere love for poet Christian and the two sing a duet that reaches astronomical heights in terms of stage presence, chorus involvement and an emotional climax. When lovers make up after a fight on-screen, it just can't happen without fireworks, literally.

7. Breakfast at Tiffany's- "I don't want to put you in a cage. I want to love you."
Sassy New Yorker Holly Golightly finally submits to the romance of her neighbour Paul in the final scene of the movie. Holly insists that she doesn't believe in commitment but her vulnerable, confused self finally admits that she can't live without the people that she loves. This scene is a classic Audrey Hepburn moment and a romantic gesture imitated in various other movies and television shows.

8. Say Anything
One of John Cusack's most renowned roles as romantic underacheiver Lloyd brought a sense of seriousness and maturity to the typical teenage summer romance. Early on, school captain Diane rejects his relationship proposal and Lloyd spends the majority of the film depressed and broody. It's when he finally gets himself up again and is determined to pursue his passion that his boldness oozes into every bit of dialogue and action. "What I want to do for a living- is I want to be with your daughter," the 19-year-old exclaims. And who can forget the famous boombox moment?

9. 10 Things I Hate About You- Patrick's serenade
It seems ridiculous that such romantic drama would occur in a high school setting but there were no complaints when Heath Ledger's character bursts into song to serenade a stubborn love interest. He plays the classic bad boy in the '90s film and so its even more surprising that he takes it upon himself to perform a ballad in public. This scene shows a romantic moment a little more comedic than most.

10. The Way We Were- "Your girl is lovely, Hubble."
Finally, one of the most melancholy love stories- the actual romance itself is short and sweet, but the unpredictable twists and turns of life ultimately separate the animated Katie and Hubble. At the end of the film, the couple meets - Katie now a single mother to their young daughter, and Hubble engaged to another woman. Barbra Streisand running her fingers through a young Robert Redford's hair shows that their relations are not completely over, and the wistful titular theme song in the background makes the moment even more pitiful.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Northeast Party House release 'Empires' music video

Northeast Party House recently released their video for single Empires –the second track off their self-titled debut EP which was released last December. The Melbourne-based band is an EMI partner, signed with label Stop and Start and winner of 2011 triple j unearthed. They recently wowed audiences at Falls Festival with their energetic live performances and infectiously catchy tunes. It’s sort of like Talking Heads meets Gorillaz –with a little bit of cliché 80’s electro.

Director Dylan Wiehan has gone for a fragmented effect in the music video; there’s no narrative or controversial symbolism as such, but more an entrancing encapsulation of the band’s dreamy synth for screen. It depicts the band playing ‘Empires’ through soft focus, where they recorded in the busy Australian woodlands. It can look unimaginative, filming a band in their rehearsal space, but I was taken by it. In fact, with the video on mute, it’s almost like you could be watching another music video for an Australian indie rock band.

The camera movement is still but deliberate, and each band member gets a focus point. However, vocalist Zach Hamilton-Reeves has the most engaging expressions, and the others seem absentminded and difficult to connect with. Wiehan has primarily revolved the video on the instruments, after each still we return via selective focus to the sci-fi keyboards, deep bass and upbeat drumming.

There are no disguises; with the natural light emerging from the windows of their forest cabin, the band appears as they are, dressed in casual weekend clothes, with a personal twist. It’s like a group of teenagers jamming, but with grown-up sensitivity. And when Hamilton Reeves’ is singing the hook “we never fought, we never tried”, you can see the articulation of regret on his face. The subtle moody atmosphere continues throughout the clip, and can seem subversive for a song that’s quite low-key in its dynamics and at first a cheerful dance track.

Northeast Party House is touring Australia this month, along with Nantes and millions, for the Triple Treat Tour.

Published on Purple Sneakers.