Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Wim Wenders’ 1984 Paris, Texas might be set in the American Southwest but, if the past is indeed a foreign country, then the movie reaches out to all of us through the memories of one man who does things differently.
Both the landscapes at the start of the film and the lines on the face of the protagonist seem carved by time – this great destroyer of things. However, one must acknowledge that although the gradual elapsing of life itself brings us closer to death, it also fills us with rich experience and relevant wisdom. Like Jesus Christ, our hero comes out of the desert a little wiser than he has supposedly been before that experience. His prudent refusal to speak seems an astute move: look and learn before letting anyone use your words against yourself. Lost and a little confused he may be, but he is not stupid. Continue reading
Both an homage to and a re-working of classic film noir cinema, Roman Polanski’s 1974 Chinatown, a technically superb and multi-layered film about the corruption of politics and morals, stuns its protagonist to the core of his self when he opens a Pandora’s box of shamelessness.
Compare the smiling and radiant face of J. J. Gittes – like the 1930s sunny Los Angeles itself – at the beginning of the film, when he is talking to the allegedly Mrs Mulwray, with the horror at the end, after he has witnessed the reach of human depravity. Never has a private eye been taken for such a ride or taken so many things for granted. The magnitude of the transformation in the protagonist’s face mirrors the disparity between the world before the 1970s and the prevalent cynicism of nowadays. Continue reading
Simultaneously dark, caustic and humorous, and yet all too real, Billy Wilder’s 1950 Sunset Boulevard, one the greatest of its director’s many masterpieces and arguably the finest film noir of all time, remains fresh as a portrait of desperation, delusion and dependence.
Sunset Boulevard is not only one of the finest film noirs of all time but also, arguably, the greatest and darkest movie about Hollywood to ever appear on the silver screen – a master class by a filmmaker who has made an incredible number of great films. But despite the movie’s focus on the film industry, the story of Sunset Blvd. deals with universal themes and the human condition. In every corner of every city in the world there’s always an aspiring (and yet needy) artist ready to sell his soul to the first devil who offers enough choices to change his life. Continue reading
Told from the perspective of its bored and aimless anti-hero, Mike Nichols’ 1967 The Graduate juxtaposes a bleak view of suburban conformism and youth alienation to a background of green grass, white picket-fences and orange Californian sunshine.
Despite Ben’s middle class background, anyone should be able to relate to his predicament – he has just finished studying hard and expectations are really high. Though now he can breathe a little, Benjamin feels like a pressure pan, ready to explode. Who has never felt like that? Who, at the outset of adulthood, never felt that the world was expecting too much from them? Though many viewers might find Ben too much of a spoilt brat, surely they still can feel for him and the typical troubles of a rebellious and confused young man. Continue reading
A pivotal, quintessential and seminal work of film noir cinema, Billy Wilder’s 1944 Double Indemnity, with the preeminent femme fatale at the centre of its story, parades a collection of immoral behaviour and provides a realistic and yet bleak opinion on the human condition.
Is the sexy and conniving Phyllis, with her beautiful legs and pretty anklet, simply the object of male desires and nothing else? Is she a cardboard-type character, who flirts, seduces and schemes like the devil, but has no dimension beyond this stereotypical representation of the blonde woman? Is she empowered or disenfranchised by such a representation? Interesting questions raised by this masterpiece of a film. Continue reading
Arguably the most conventional of his ‘perplexing’ films, David Lynch’s 2001 Mulholland Dr., a fairy tale with a twisting end, is nonetheless an atmospheric unsolvable jigsaw: dreamlike in its mood and narrative; bleak and austere in its view of human nature and show business.
For over a decade viewers have been trying to unravel the mystery behind Mulholland Dr. A movie which asks viewers to consider differences and similarities between dream and reality is intrinsically playing an ironic game – for, among all art forms, film is the most oneiric one. It is, after all, through lies, artifice and make-believe, that cinema tries to tell the truth. And given that the representation of a dream on the screen is arguably no different from the representation of reality, Mulholland Dr. can play between these two poles and generate genuine disorientation.