What We’ve Been Watching – Issue #2

Paths of Glory4.5/5

Stanley Kubrick’s intimate World War I film ranks amongst the best war films of all time. Dissimilar to most in the genre, this is less worried about epic battle scenes (although there is one continuous shot of soldiers advancing into battle which is mesmerizing) and more about personal relations of people and consequences of certain of their actions, even if the result of those actions is not necessarily their fault or intention.

Kirk Douglas, working with Kubrick three years prior to their legendary collaboration with Spartacus, is astonishing as a man who does everything he can to stop the execution of three soldiers who are unfairly prosecuted for retreating from battle. There is a clear sense that Kubrick and Douglas were on the same level when making this film, the camera, guided by Kubrick, just seems to work completely in tandem with Douglas. As much of a master that Kubrick was this is as much Douglas’ film as it is his, with the performance of him taking the centre stage just as much as Kubrick’s directing expertise does.

A group of people singing together is usually and supposed to be a happy thing. But the song at the conclusion of Paths of Glory just makes us feel all the more saddened by what has happened throughout the coarse of the film. Kubrick was indeed a master and Paths of Glory ranks amongst his best. – ROSS

Match Point2/5

Match Point is the first film in a long while which I just didn’t get. Through a combination of an aim on writer/director Woody Allen’s part to be something unique and a strong sense of confusion (particularly because of a twist in the plot), I just didn’t get what this was supposed to be. There’s a certain feeling of pretentiousness here, as if Allen thinks that he’s above everyone else and he is looking down on you if and when anyone watching, such as myself, can’t or won’t go along with what he’s trying to do.

There are some fantastic performances on display here,  particularly from Jonathan Rhys Myers and Scarlett Johannson (who proves once again that she’s not just a pretty face), and the script (or more specifically the dialogue) is extremely well written but that doesn’t make up for the film as a whole.

These are not people I can identify with in any way, they aren’t even people I can even begin to like let alone really care all that much what becomes of them by film’s end. It’s a very muddled film, it doesn’t quite know what type of film it wants to be; it veers from drama to comedy, then erotic drama then back to straight drama and then bewilderingly to thriller. To me it felt all over the place and thus I felt irritated when watching it.

I don’t doubt that Allen is a talented filmmaker, as like I said the dialogue is very skilfully written here. And that coupled with the fantastic performances from pretty much everyone there is things that hold it back from being outright bad. But from a personal point of view I just didn’t grasp what Match Point was supposed to be, and for that reason it gets a thumbs down I’m sad to say. – ROSS

Funny Games (1997)5/5

Two psychotic young men take a mother, father, and son hostage in their vacation cabin and force them to play sadistic “games” with one another for their own amusement.

Funny Games is another one of those films everybody bare me has seen. Finally I found it in my supermarket this afternoon and just finished watching it. I have to admit that it totally blew me away. Funny Games is far more than a Horror, it’s also a depiction of just how often Media violence is in our society and how much we take it for granted and almost let ourselves be entertained by this. Pure genuis!

The film opens up with a helicopter shot of the family arriving at their holiday home on the motorway. While watching this we are shown just how close the family, setting us up for one hell of a ride. This voyeuristic technique makes us wonder why we are sitting here watching this and almost feel slightly intrusive on the family. That’s the genius of Haneke. I must admit that I didn’t go too much on Hidden but this is absolutely amazing. I can see some similarities in the two films there.

I know a lot of people will either love or hate this film I can see why but there are many different meanings to this film. For instance as I said before why, as a viewer you are sitting down to watch this and also questioning the viewing public as a whole. It also shows us parts which you might not fully be shown in an American film and almost plays upon that. Haneke uses emotions of the family almost as bait. The two men constantly play upon why the couple are crying and feeling this way and twisting it for their own amusement. There’s no manipulation here as you might often find in a US film, you are given the opportunity to switch off, as one character says and question just how much violence you can take. Which I think is why this film is NOT pointless as some people have written here.

The characterisation in Funny Games is brilliant and key to the viewers understanding of the film. Both of the two main leads; Anna and Georg Sr are a middle class couple and very likeable indeed. As a viewer you can instantly relate to them and their son Georg. The film’s path is not what you would expect as you really do warm to the characters. Oddly the representation of the two men: Paul and Peter are ones of such charm and sophistication that you don’t feel that they’re the villain on some stages. I’m going to admit that I did find the character of Paul very attractive indeed and didn’t for a second think anything less-but that’s another story entirely! Incidentally Peter is also a man full of charm but is presented as less intelligent and an odd character.-we see this when Peter continuously calls him “fatty” which he hates.

Funny Games is also intelligently written and well paced. 1 hr and 40 minutes flew by and left me utterly speechless afterwards, which of course is genius on Haneke’s part. Funny Games cleverly plays with the conventions of filmmaking and asks the audience:

“We’re not up to feature film length yet. You want a real ending with plausible plot development”.

Also has Paul looking at the camera and talking to the audience, which also gives the character as sense of arrogance to him and almost tells the audience that he’s in charge. What was the most clever thing about this film was the re-wind scene which did leave me slightly disturbed at what I had just watched.

Funny Games is one of the most disturbing films that I have seen and so cleverly written and filmed it’s unbelievable. It’ll leave you feeling horrified at what you’ve just watched and leave you wondering the why you watch violence in the media. Funny Games is a clever film and one which I highly recommend. – SARAH

Before Sunrise4.5/5

A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one romantic evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.

Every once in a while I come across a film that everyone else has seen except for me and Before Sunrise and Sunset are films which I haven’t got around to seeing. Luckily today I sat and watched this wonderful poignant film and I have to admit that it totally blew me away. I remember my film studies lecturer raving about how great this film is. At the time I couldn’t see it but after watching it I can see why.

Before Sunrise is a film miles away from your conventional american romance where you most likely end up feeling grossed out or annoyed that your watching the most irritating actor or actress in Hollywood. Before Sunrise does not do that. You feel like your witnessing a relationship between two strangers which could happen anywhere, at any time. Almost makes you feel happier about life in that sense. I know, from reading reviews about this film, that it changed a lot of people’s life, when it came out in 1995 and I can see why. Before Sunrise makes you feel confident about life and sets you out on a journey which you probably didn’t realise you were on.

The characters are developed wonderfully. Ethan Hawke, plays a typical American, who does not speak any other language other than English-which is often touched upon in the film. You can relate to him well. Julie DelPy, who I haven’t seen much of, brilliantly depicts her character well and again, like Jesse (Hawke) you can relate to her very well. Both leads have excellent chemistry on screen and this is filmed well. The key to this though is the brilliant screenplay, which beautifully uses each line well to show the ever-changing relationship between the two strangers. Each conversation they have so brilliantly written and evident in life, which add to the realism of the film. I would quote something from the film but there are way too many quotes from this film, I wouldn’t be doing it justice. All I can say is that when you sit and watch this this relationship you are watching is real, which is down to the realistic dialogue written.

The direction is simply brilliant. From the shots on the train to the scenery around Vienna, we get a sense of the one night that these two characters are on and the world in which they find themselves in. Key to this is the fact the camera – 95% of the time remains on them. Every bit of Scenery around Vienna for example, is depicted as part of their world-that being just the two of them. From long shots of the lush river through Vienna to the sunset in the morning, as a viewer you feel transported to this world and in some ways, feel like them, that you don’t want this night to end either.

Before Sunrise is probably one of the most romantic, realistic films that I’ve seen and one of the best films of the 1990’s. With the clever observations on life and the depiction of a one night relationship, it’s the sort of film that remind you why you like films. The only thing released recently that could resemble this is Lost in Translation, other than that there hasn’t been a film like this for a long time and it’s a crying shame.

Before Sunrise is a masterpiece and one Romantic film that you’ll never forget. One of the best romantic films I’ve seen in a long while. – SARAH

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