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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tell No One

France has always been known for its compelling and innovative film tradition. Most of the modern cinematic movements were born in France. French movies never fail to engage me; be it a drama or a thriller or a horror movie, they always carry that extra dynamism in it which satiates the craving that the audience feels within. Tell No One has been branded as one of the most gripping and fascinating French thriller movies in the recent years. Directed by Guillaume Canet, who is known for his roles in movies like Love Me if You Dare (one of my all-time favourtites), The Beach, The Last Flight, Tell No One keeps the audience enthralled with its sharp twists and turns in the tale.

The film begins in the most languid way possible. It starts with a group of friends gathered together in a summer cabin in the woods, enjoying wine and weed and mindless babble in general. Among those gathered are Alex (Francois Cluzet) and his wife Margot (Marie Josee Croze), Alex’s sister Anne (Marina Hands), her partner Helene (Kristin Scott Thomas) and a few of their other friends. Lazing away your time in the summer is the ideal thing to do, if you happen to own a secluded cabin in the woods. Alex and Margot do exactly that and goes skinny dipping in the nearby lake, reminiscing their childhood days. But all good things must come to an end. The couple has an argument and Margot swims ashore alone, leaving behind Alex, a little bewildered on the small raft in the middle of the lake. Alex hears a muffled scream and he too hurries back ashore, only to be greeted by a blow on the head which renders him unconscious and lands him in a coma for three days.

Fast forward to eight years, Alex is still mourning his wife, while practicing as a paediatrician at a Paris hospital. When two bodies are discovered near the same lake where Alex and Margot had gone swimming eight years ago, the past he had refused to bury reaches out to him. Alex becomes the obvious suspect to his wife’s killing and the police begin persecuting him. In the meantime he begins to receive anonymous e-mails which lead him suspect that Margot may not be dead. In his bid to uncover the mystery of his wife’s murder he becomes a target for both the police and a hired gang who want to keep the secret buried at all costs.

There is a particularly thrilling chase sequence through the city. It takes Alex through Clignancourt, the labyrinth of the antiques market and finally onto the mean streets of Paris where he seeks out help from an unlikely source. It is a marvelously photographed scene, taking the audience too for a run around the streets of the French capital. 

Tell No One revels to the audience each clue to the mystery patiently, without making the audience groan with impatience. Canet blends the movie with flashbacks and the real time events seamlessly when explaining the mystery. The movie takes you for a well-paced journey, whose destination is not disappointing at all; it is deeply satisfying and logical.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blue Ruin

If Only God Forgives fails to make you empathise with its revenge saga, Blue Ruin definitely tugs at your heart with its nerve-wrecking, visceral tale of revenge. Blue Ruin demands some time from the viewers to settle down to, with its slow and ambiguous narration at the start. But what works for it is the curiosity that it manages to build up within the audience. Director and scriptwriter Jeremy Saulnier feeds the audience just enough information for them to participate in the story.

The movie opens with a hairy, bearded, homeless man played by Macon Blair who lives out of a rusted blue Pontiac. He sneaks into people’s houses to take a shower and digs through the carnival waste bins for food. He has his trusted Pontiac parked at the edge of town, near the beach, away from prying eyes. Blair has no lines almost for the first ten minutes of the movie. But the story starts rolling when he is taken in by the police, not because he is in trouble but because he needs to be informed about a recent incident. The audience is then informed “He will be released” and we are privy to a news headline stating that a double murder conviction has been overturned. Blair’s character is Dwight Evans and the audience gets a vague idea about his past. There is no further explanation as Dwight gets back to his car and packs up leaves in his Pontiac. 

Dwight is then seen following the recently released man, Wade Cleland from prison, who we later learn had killed his parents. This disheveled, ragged, homeless, drifter, who shuffles along is now determined to extract vengeance on behalf of his family. He becomes a man with a purpose in his life. It is shocking to see how this mild mannered anti-hero steels himself to annihilate his parents’ killer. His planning goes awry and he is forced to improvise. The killing is a messy scenario and Wade’s murder is both grotesque and bloody for a number of reasons. Realizing the fatal mistake of taking on the entire Cleland clan, Dwight breaks into another house, treats his wounds, cleans up, shaves and looks like the quiet next door neighbor in his borrowed blue shirt and tan slacks. Dwight is a dubious avenger, ill-equipped to face the situation which makes Blue Ruin a far more suspenseful movie than the archetypal revenge-violence movie. 

Blue Ruin spills quite a lot of blood; there are bullets flying and knives cutting and is both gory and graphic. Yet Saulnier does just enough like a responsible craftsman to make it seem real, without making it look like a blood fest. Blair embodies fright, his eyes are riveted with fear, fear for both his life and his family’s. But his sad brown eyes aren’t the least bit comical, it tells you about real emotions, about his confusions, his doubts, his hesitations. 

Blue Ruin is an intelligent thriller which tries to re-define the concept of revenge movie by providing the audience a sequence of alternating scenes of method and violence.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives is a visually stylistic and flamboyant film, but fails deplorably with its plot and narrative. With its blinding and extravagant use of neon colours, and a haunting anticipatory soundtrack, Only God Forgives fails to make the audience participate. The movie fails on all counts to satiate the emotional needs of a revenge tale; there is no scope for empathy for the viewers.  

Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn makes Only God Forgives about Julian’s, played by Ryan Gosling private purgatory. As an expatriate from the US, Julian and his brother Billy, operates a shady Muay Thai boxing club in Bangkok. The boxing club is however a side business and the real money comes from drug trade. Julian is the broody and the introspective anti-hero of the movie while Billy is exactly the opposite. His fantasies of rough sex with underage girls get him killed. Thus enters Lieutenant Chang, a police officer with a God complex, who hands Billy over to the father of the underage prostitute he raped and killed. It almost seems that Chang is a supernatural being. Most of the scenes in the movie are at night, which heightens its surrealism and allows Refn to indulge plentifully in the neon. The scenes are bathed in red and blue, acting complimentary to each other instead of being opposites. 

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Crystal, the mafia matriarch, who flies down to identify the body of her “first born.” She takes us back to the Shakespearean tragedies of Hamlet and Macbeth, possessing the same ruthlessness of Lady Macbeth while making use of the same oedipal attraction that Julian feels for Crystal which Hamlet felt for Gertrude asking him to protect her from any impending danger. The sexual innuendos are not subtle between mother and son, especially when Crystal buries her face in Julian’s navel and then later orders him to kiss his mother. She begins by seducing him, then belittling his manhood and finally tries to destroy him.

 Ryan Gosling as Julian is the perfect Hamlet to Crystal’s Gertrude. He bears all the admonitions and depreciating with almost graceful impassiveness, while trying to make her proud by fighting Lieutenant Chang, who almost beats Julian to a pulp. Gosling has only seventeen lines in the movie; he is the near silent anti-hero of the movie, who spins a surrealist yarn in his subconscious with Chang in it, while trying to cope with his psychopathic and dysfunctional family. There is a particular stoicism in Gosling that is unparalleled. 

Only God Forgives moves at a very slow pace, it almost glides; interlaced with awkward silences and blank stares in the black void, the movie switches between Julian’s reality and dream world. The movie is thoroughly packaged with a wonderful soundtrack and stunningly alluring visuals, but in the core is nothing but hollow.