Monday, March 19, 2012

Film review: I, Don Giovanni

Genre: Period drama
Directed by: Carlos Saura
Starring: Lorenzo Balducci, Lino Guanciale, Emilia Verginelli, Tobias Moretti, Ennio Fantastichini.
Music by: Nicola Tescari.
Realised in: 2009
Running time: 127 minutes

I, Don Giovanni is a 2009 film by Carlos Saura; this film represents the libertine life of the most famous Venetian opera librettist and poet, Lorenzo Da Ponte, and compares his life to the one of Don Giovanni. This character was inspired by the one in Tirso de Molina’s El Burlador de Sevilla y el convidado de piedra, who is one of the most interesting and revisited characters in the history of theatre.

The film is set in Venice in 1763 when the Inquisition obliged priests to baptize converted Hebrews, among these is Lorenzo Da Ponte. Firstly, he escapes from the church, but then he becomes an abbot. His best friend, Casanova, teaches him to live a frivolous life: attending banquets, making love to many different girls, etc. Moreover, he uses his ability in writing to criticize the Church and the Inquisition. Because of this unregulated life, Lorenzo da Ponte is exiled, and he moves to Vienna, a more modern city. Here he meets a lot of famous singers and musicians such as Ferrarese, Cavalieri, Salieri and Mozart. Thanks to Joseph II, Lorenzo collaborates with Mozart in the realization of a lot of operas, among them the most important is Don Giovanni. Will this work change Lorenzo's view of life and love?

Music, scenes and costumes are very well done in Saura’s film version. The lyrical music, together with the painted scenes of theatrical operas, provide the right background to the film. Moreover, the use of XVI century Venetian costumes manages to recreate the atmosphere of that epoch and that place.

The cast is mainly composed of Italian actors among whom we have Leonardo Balducci, whose talent can be appreciated in the extraordinary central role of Lorenzo Da Ponte. The Venetian opera librettist has been compared to the character of Don Giovanni: both Lorenzo and Don Giovanni lead a frivolous and lewd life, but Lorenzo will distinguish himself from Don Giovanni by choosing love. It is probably the happy ending of this film version which has contributed to its extraordinary success.

Eleonora Giacoppo

Review of “La vita che corre”

Recently on Italian TV I saw an interesting film “La vita che corre”. It spoke about a big problem in the Italian society, the abuse of alcohol and drugs and its consequences.  Three girls do a dance trial. They pass, and they decide to go to a disco to celebrate this event.

At the same moment in another family, there is a difficult situation. In fact their son pushes drugs secretly, this boy is in conflict with his father. The other son is a doctor. That evening they also decide to go in the same disco, and they meet the three girls. But during that evening they all get drunk together with two boys .

Unfortunately, while they are coming back to home, they have a terrible accident. In that moment another man is coming back, and he is involved. He is badly injured. In fact the doctors must amputate his leg. He begins a long period of suffering because at the beginning he doesn’t accept his handicap, but afterwards he decides to face it.

He also loses his work, but he wants to begin a new life with his family One of two boys drops dead on the spot and after three days one of three girls. From that moment, the father of dead boy tries to save the other son that it has made the same mistake as his brother.

This film is an image of modern society, which is characterized by the insecurities in the world of young people. It brings out the often difficult relations between parents and children, that aren’t always idyllic.

Seeing this film, I was shocked. This film made me reflect. I liked it because I made this consideration: 
we have everything, and we can enjoy life honestly without using drugs. Young people think only about themselves. They don’t understand that in a minute they can destroy the life of somebody else.

One minute is sufficient to ruin everything.

Grazia Maria Franco

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Film review: Psycho, 1960

Have you ever thought to see one of the most recognizable films in cinema history or be scared to death while watching the most particular film scene ever made? Would you like to see the film based on the novel by Robert Bloch which was inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein? Oops, maybe I am revealing everything already. In any case, whatever you answer, I highly recommend you see the film that will stay engraved in your head for life! I’m talking about one of Hitchcock’s best films –Psycho.

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by: Joseph Stefano
Genre: suspense, horror
Main actors:    Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates
Janet Leigh as Marion Crane
John Gavin as Sam Loomis
Martin Balsam as Det. Milton Arbogast
Themes: woman in jeopardy, mothers and sons
Tone: chilly, tense, creepy, deliberate, menacing, macabre
Keywords: embezzlement, missing-person, motel, mother, murder, private detective, psychopath, shower, stabbing, taxidermy
Run Time: 120min
Language: English

Summary of the plot
Psycho opens in Phoenix with the secret love affair of banker Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin). After a discussion about not being able to continue meeting each other like this, Marion agrees to sneak off to Sam’s house in some distant town. She decides to spend one last day at work. While at work, she is given $40,000 to deposit, but she escapes with the money. There is a heavy rainstorm which prompts her to spend the night at the Bates Motel rather than drive in the rain. It is a quite friendly motel with a dark house looming over it in the background. Marion decides she should rest and wait for the rain to pass, so she checks into room number 1.

At the check-in counter she meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a man whose only companion is his sick mother. Marion agrees to have dinner with Norman in his motel. Here she has a long talk with Norman, and has a revelation. She realizes that Norman is living in a trap and that she is about to do the same. The rain lets up and she decides to return to Phoenix and return the money. With that on her mind, she goes to her room and takes a shower before she rests. However, a figure creeps up behind, rips open the curtains and stabs her to death.

This is the real mystery. Who murdered her? Why did they murder her? And the answer is so cool that you’re left in a state of awe. No one will be able to guess why she was murdered. The story is much more complex than it might seem and really worth it to find out who’s the murderess. I can only tell you that the rest of the story is shocking and unsuspected.
Psycho is an auteur film. It is a little difficult to understand but attracts the attention of the audience in an impressive way. There are many slow or silent scenes, and, at the same time, there are different details so important to catch the nuances of the film. Most of the shots are extreme close-ups. The combination of the close shots with their short duration makes the scenes of the film feel more menacing. The soundtrack of screeching violins, which intensified the scene and is scary, was composed by Bernard Herrmann. The film being in black and white looks simply stunning and breathtaking. The way Alfred Hitchcock sets up the atmosphere and the suspense is remarkable. The main figure of the film, Anthony Perkins, is excellent as the lonely Norman Bates. He is friendly and very likable.
In one way or another, if you are looking for a great scare, then Psycho is for you. It will make you think twice about taking a shower.

Magdalena Seget

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Film review: Amadeus

Genre: period drama
Directed by: Milos Forman
Starring: F. Murray Abraham; Tom Hulce; Elisabeth Berridge
Music by: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Antonio Salieri
Realise date: September 19, 1984
Running time: 161 minutes

Amadeus is a period drama about the rivalry between two famous composers of the 18th century: Mozart and Salieri. The Italian composer, Antonio Salieri, is threatened by the genius of the young Mozart who has recently arrived at Vienna where he will compose some of his masterworks for Emperor Joseph II. In order to save his reputation, Salieri will try to hinder his rival’s career by giving him some wrong advice. The whole story is narrated by using the flashback cinematographic technique: it is Salieri who tells us the story from his personal point of view; as a consequence the story is not objective and Mozart is represented as a childish genius who does not need to work very hard in order to compose a masterwork. The film greatly represents the ambiguous relationship Salieri had with Mozart, the Italian composer both loves and hates his colleague; he really appreciates his genius but he is also disappointed by the fact that Mozart does not need to make any effort in order to compose great music. On the contrary Salieri’s total dedication to music seems to be useless since he does not manage to create something brilliant. This is why he is so envious of his colleague.

The film starts in a in an insane asylum where Salieri stays after having tried to commit suicide; the Italian composer confesses to a priest that he is responsible for Mozart’s death. Salieri tells to the priest he really wanted to be a composer since he was a very young boy and thanks to his total dedication to music he has managed to become a good composer and to work for Emperor Joseph II. However Salieri’s achievements will be suddenly threatened by the arrival of a young and talented man: Mozart. Despite being a childish and lewd man, Mozart is an extraordinary composer who quickly obtains the favour of the emperor; Salieri, who is envious of his rival’s genius, plots against him. Salieri uses Mozart’s financial problems against him to lead his rival to a deep crisis both economical and personal; the Italian composer, on one side, makes Mozart think he wants to help him but, on the other side, he will actually plot against his rival by giving him some wrong advice. The story ends with the death of the great composer who dictates his famous requiem to Salieri.

This film was first shown in 1989, but in 2002 a director’s cut version was realised with almost 20 extra minutes. Amadeus has been praised by critics with 53 nominations and 40 awards, including 8 Academy Awards and 4 Golden Globes. Its best merit is to have provided for the extraordinary music of Mozart a framework that allows common people to appreciate it.

Maria Stefania Cuttone

Review of Midnight in Paris

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.  Ernest Hemingway

Everybody has his “dream city” or maybe not city, but a place where all dreams come true. For someone it’s the Eternal city – Rome, for others – hectic London or Barcelona, for the successful Hollywood screenwriter Gil Pender such a place is Paris. Paris of the 1920s, the cradle of great artists and authors.
Gil (Owen Wilson) with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) come to Paris on vacation where Gil is struggling to finish his first novel, while Inez dismisses his notions of the city and the idea that the 1920s was the golden age. Romantic Gil likes Paris especially in the rain. He adores the rain, small restaurants, green parks and numerous bridges with ancient street lamps. He really wants to live in 1920s Paris – a time and place with which he is obsessed.
One night Gil wanders alone the streets of Paris, but he gets lost. When the clock strikes midnight an antique car pulls up and the passengers dressed in 20s clothing urge Gil to join them. Later he comes to realize that he has been transported to 1920 where he encounters composer Cole Porter, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, an American writer and art collector Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and others. Gil’s dream comes true - he finds himself in the 20s of the past century in the belle époque. However, in the morning he finds he has returned to 2010.
The main character is so happy to stay with his idols, the most brilliant artistic persons of the 20th century and over the next few days he waits for midnight to be transported to that fabulous past. Gil spending more and more time with Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who leaves Picasso and has a brief flirt with Hemingway realizes that he is falling in love with her, and this takes him closer to the heart of the city but further from the real world where there is a woman he’s about to marry.
At first glance “Midnight in Paris” is a light romantic comedy, but looking inside more deeply it’s possible to realize that there is no universal conflict between good and evil, there is no great theme of love, but it’s a story about a man who desires to dream and remember our past. This is a philosophical film, like all of Woody Allen’s films about people who think that they live in a wrong time and they need to find that unforgettable “la belle époque”. Every time the dissonance between the present and the past becomes stronger and more evident. The genius screenwriter emphasizes the romantic and realistic elements, more than the fantasy elements. Living in the modern world Gil understands that the past will always charm and attract him, but staying in the past means to suffer from the nostalgia of looking for something better.
As in all of Woody Allen’s films, the actors act easily and with a great pleasure. Owen Wilson is fascinating in typical Allen trousers and checked shirt as a hopeless romantic writer. There is no doubt that Gil is Allen’s prototype, but younger and perhaps more attractive. The French actress, Marion Cotillard, is smart and very sweet as Picasso’s and Modigliani’s muse. Adrien Brody’s role (as Salvador Dalì) is probably his best role since “The Pianist” (2002) - the small one, but memorable. The film’s real star, of course, is Paris, seductive and glowing in all it’s eras.
The film has been cited as one of Allen’s best films in recent years. In 2012 it won both the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe Awards for Best Screenplay.
Excellent romantic atmosphere, fascinating French, magic Paris in the rain -  only for this you ought to watch “Midnight in Paris”! A perfect casting choice (the director includes local French actors when filming in another country), excellent music compositions by Stephane Wrembel, the French jazz guitarist, a gorgeous setting with splendid costumes make a 94-minute film by Woody Allen a romantic and enjoyable film about love, dreams and beauty!

P.S. What are you going to do at midnight in Paris?

Dina Chashchinova

Film review: “The Illusionist” (2006)

A man who captivates a nation, a love that is forbidden, a secret that threatens an empire. These are the main points of “The Illusionist”, an English film shot by the director Neil Burger in 2006.

This film of love, magic tricks and political intrigue is really thrilling; its plot becomes more and more complex until you believe you have missed some scenes because at one point you don’t understand what is happening. Only at the end of the film do you discover the course of the story and remain surprised by the various twists.

The main character is Eisenheim (played by Edward Norton), a young man who has been always obsessed by magic tricks since he was a boy. In Vienna he falls in love with Sophie, a noblewoman. They are of different social classes and for this reason they are forced to meet secretly, until they are discovered and forcefully separated.

Eisenheim continues to improve his skills until he becomes a master of illusion and, after a long period abroad, he returns to Vienna. During one of his performances he meets Sophie, who is being forced to marry Prince Leopold.

From this moment Eisenheim and Sophie understand that they are still in love, and they decide to escape from Austria, but they must fight against Leopold. He is cruel, pampered and wants to usurp the crown of his father, but Eisenheim tricks him (and also the audience) making him believe that Sophie has been killed. During a performance, the illusionist (Eisenheim) invokes the spirit of Sophie, who says that someone in the theatre murdered her, indicating Leopold. The Prince orders Eisenheim arrested, but magically he disappears. At this point, after the spreading of the scandal (the plan to usurp the crown), Leopold kills himself and the story finishes with Eisenheim who walks towards Sophie.

It is a very beautiful film, the story is stirring and rich with twists and special effects. It is a dramatic and fantastic film not to be missed!

Maria Rosaria Torre

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review of “Pulp Fiction”

“The path of righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.”

This verse, Ezekiel 25:17, that appears three times during the movie could announce to us a film with religious and Christian significance, but the reality is quite different, even if at the end it could have a change connected with the faith.

Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), a killer, pronounces this fantastic verse immediately before killing his victims. Pulp Fiction is a crime thriller of 1994 directed by Quentin Tarantino, with John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and Tim Roth. It was nominated for seven Oscars: it won for Best Original Screenplay. Also it was awarded the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the opening scene there is a couple discussing their plans of robbery in a café. Everything appears to be normal: the music in the background is the typical noise of a café. Moments after Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and  Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) initiate the hold-up, the scene breaks off and the titles roll. Still the scene needs to be continued… Jules Winnfield (S. L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) are two men in black suits that have to retrieve a briefcase from a man that has transgressed against their boss, Marsellus Wallas. Jules tells Vincent that Marsellus had a man thrown off a fourth floor balcony for giving his wife a foot massage. Vincent is worried about this fact because the gangster has asked him to escort his wife, Mrs Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), while he’s out of town. Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) is an aging prizefighter and in exchange for a large sum of money promises he would take a dive in his oncoming match. But he will not fulfill the pact and will be forced to flee with his girlfriend, but a gold watch will make him face the danger. Jules and Vincent will try to deliver the briefcase, which is the driving force behind the action to Marsellus throughout many trials and a final twist.

The film contains an heterogeneus mix of American rock and roll, surf music, pop and soul by various artists. Notable songs include Misirlou by Dick Dale, in a surf- rock rendition, which is played in the opening scene and mixed with the words pronounced by Pumpkin  and Honey Bunny shouting at the people in the café and which gives the movie action and an imprint of western music. Another relevant song is the version of Son of a preacher man by Dusty Springfield which is the background of Vincent entering the Marsellus’ house to take Mia Wallace out. Urge Overkill's cover of the Neil Diamond song Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon is played when, after coming back home with Vincent, Mia is dancing alone in the living room. Mia feels sexy and it is clear she wants to seduce Vincent.

An interesting aspect of the movie is that it tells different stories, includes different characters that come in and out of the story, with their feeling a and personal background and with their own relevance within the story and in comparison with the other characters. It is a story of loyalty, betrayal and crime (but also of fun, dance and jokes). Hard drugs, especially cocaine and heroine, are a necessary complement for the world represented by the gangster, his wife and his henchmen such as the submission of the weakest people under the more powerful ones is another natural consequence of this kind of organization. Vincent and Mia Wallace are only two passive and weak characters in the hands of the destiny and of their boss. They can’t do anything else if not behave as he wants them to behave and move as he wants them to move. Uma Thurman is a great performer of that part, sensual and naïve at the same time.

The overdose of the weak Mia, “a woman soon”, as the text of the song says, shows her frailty and demonstrates that her look of woman in the surface hides a inner soul of girl. Tarantino inserts in some scenes a touch of irony, but also so much unexpected cruelty and violence; he gives us some raw images related to the use of cocaine and presented as something normal and ordinary. Also the gunshots are continual and the blood shed on the ground is so raw. But actually all the nastiness is driven away by the act of mocking the action, to exaggerate it, to make it perverse. For some aspects the movie is the representation of the modern times and seems so real to me in spite of its surface of fiction.


Love & Other Drugs

When Hollywood addicted audiences all over the world realized the movie Love and Other Drugs was about to be released the first thought that crossed their minds was that it was going to be another silly and unrealistic romantic comedy where the main characters realize they love each other for no apparent reason and in the final scene of the movie they rush to grab a taxi in order to get to the person they love as soon as possible. Well, once you see it, you realize that Love and Other like no Other American romantic comedies – although actually classified as belonging to the genre.

It is set back in the 1960s and it tells the story of a young fascinating man, Jamie, that begins his career as a pharmaceutical sales representative. He is going to change the life of many unhappy people since he is about to release a brand new drug called Viagra – and I guess we all know what I mean when I say that it has changed many lives. But if there is a life that is really going to be subverted is the protagonist’s life as soon as he runs into the female protagonist, Maggie. Jamie is handsome and successful, he can have as many women as he wants but when he meets Maggie, who suffers from early onset Parkinson's disease, he will realize that none of all the relationships that he had were real. So they fall in love and they  begin a relationship as a normal couple although they have to face many difficulties: Maggie’s illness is getting worse and Jamie is totally unprepared to face a long and painful voyage next to her.  Real dramas that occur in real lives have been treated by the director as every couple should do. Love sometimes can be like an illness, it requires a lot of patience and time to be “cured”, to be perfect and sometimes there is no drug that can prevent you from suffering.

The director  Edward Zwick not only has made a great cinematic work out of the novel Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy; moreover he has chosen probably the best couple ever seen on screen: Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie and Anne Hathaway as Maggie. Beyond Gyllenhaal’s  brilliant performance, it is necessary to underline the remarkable acting by Anne Hathaway. Both were nominated for many awards, she won the Satellite Award 2010 for Best actress. It has been a remarkable change in her career since the audience had always associated her pretty face to those romantic comedies that I have mentioned above. She was probably accused of lack of talent since those kind of movie did not require much of it. Indeed her acting in Love and Other Drugs proved everyone to be wrong and the audience realized that behind her beautiful smile the strong character of a smart young woman is hidden.

If we mix the brilliance of the cast, with the importance of the themes that the story touches, a meaningful and engaging movie is what we get that I am sure that all the kind of audiences will appreciate.

Giulia Platania

Film Review: A Review of “The Skin I Live In”

Marilia: “The things the love of a mad man can do!”
(Original sentence: “¡Hasta dónde puede llegar el amor de un loco!”)

“The Skin I Live In”: main features
Original Title:
La Piel Que Habito
Directed by:
Pedro Almodóvar
Produced by:
Agustín Almodóvar and Pedro Almodóvar
Release Year:
Based on:
Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet
Main characters:
Antonio Banderas as Robert Ledgard

Elena Anaya as Vera Cruz

Marisa Paredes as Marilia

Jan Cornet Vicente Guillén Piñeiro
Roberto Álamo as Zeca
Blanca Suárez Norma Ledgard
117 minutes

These few words, taken from a dialogue between Marilia and Vera, are probably the only ones able to explain the meaning of the whole film: the keywords, indeed, could be “madness” and “love”, but first it is better to introduce some technical aspects of this movie.

The Skin I Live In is a Spanish film by the notable director Pedro Almodóvar, realized in 2011, belonging to the thriller genre. Among the actors, there are some very famous faces, above all of the Spanish cinema, such as Antonio Banderas starring the main role of Robert Ledgard, Marisa Paredes who often worked with Almodóvar, Elena Anaya, and so on. The Skin I Live In is based on the novel titled Mygale, by Thierry Jonquet, first published in French and then in English with the title “Tarantula”.

As the opening phrase of the film indicates, it is set in 2012, in the city of Toledo, Spain. El Cigarral is the name of the estate/clinic where the protagonist, Robert Ledgard, lives with Marilia, his servant, and Vera, a captive, and where he makes his experiments. In fact, Robert is a plastic surgeon who, during twelve years, manages to create a flameproof skin (named Gal, like his wife) in order to help her, victim of a car crash and of a consequent terrible fire that burns her entire body, transforming the poor lady in a monster. To realize such a challenge, Robert needs three things: no scruples, a loyal accomplice and a human guinea pig. First of all, about scruples, they are not a problem because in his twisted scheme everything he does is right and everything he changes is for a good reason, maybe for love; secondly, Marilia, who knows him from the day he was born, is his most loyal accomplice who helps him to pursue his plans (although at times she doesn’t agree with his intentions); finally, all the experiments to mould a new skin, are made on Vera (even if, during a scientific meeting, he declares to use only mice for his operations). The film starts during the carnival season: while Robert is away, Zeca, Marilia’s son, after robbing a jewelry shop, reaches the estate wearing a tiger carnival costume to ask her to hide him for some days. Marilia refuses. However, once inside, Zeca sees the female captive, binds Marilia and rapes Vera. As soon as Robert arrives, he kills Zeca with his gun. While Robert hides the dead body, Marilia explains some events of Robert’s life to Vera: one day, during the recovery, Gal saw by mistake her aspect after the accident and, desperate, she took her life by jumping out of the window. Unfortunately, their daughter Norma witnessed the suicide and started suffering from depression, requiring psychiatric treatment. After this report, two parallel flashbacks begin: the six past years of Robert and the six ones of Vera. Both start with a wedding party: Norma is temporarily released from psychiatric care to go with her father to the wedding. Here, she meets Vicente, who leads her into the garden to have sex. At first Norma, very confused, doesn’t refuse the advances of the young boy, but then she begins to scream, and Vicente, not concluding the rape, hits her and runs on his motorbike, leaving the girl senseless. Robert finds Norma and wakes her up, but after that she identifies her father with the rapist. This is the beginning of the end: Norma is put again in a mental hospital and there she kills herself by jumping out of the window, just like her mother. As revenge for the rape, Robert, in disguise, kidnaps Vicente.

Only by watching the movie, will it be possible to understand why he kidnaps the poor boy, why Vera is a captive and how Marilia helps Robert: the rest of the story is shocking and nobody could expect such an ending. Being an auteur film, it is a little difficult to understand or just to follow with attention. There are many slow or silent scenes that don’t help the audience to stay focused, but at the same time there are different details so important to catch the nuances of the movie. Surely, the result is a wonderful work, maybe not just for the great direction, but most of all for the genius and the unpredictability of the story.

Carmen Romeo