Sunset blvd.

January 10, 2007

Sunset boulevard

This movie was a nice find. It is funny and somewhat creepy, and full of small, pretty details.

For example, the opening scene is quite ingenuous, you see a dead man floating on a pool; it looks as if you were at the bottom of the pool, looking up at the man and at the reporters and police.  Filmed in 1950, there were no subaquatic cameras that would have allowed that shot. Instead, the director placed a mirror at the bottom of the pool, and filmed the image reflected there; they had to experiment some with the temperature of the water until the mirror image looked right. 

There are cameos of several silent movie stars (playing themselves) and Cecil B. DeMille plays himself for a few minutes, busy filming Samson and Delilah, with his actual crew.  

The DVD has several small documentaries worth watching. Particularly interesting in my opinion was the piece on composer Franz Waxman, who was in charge of the score. Other documentaries point out the parallels between the cast of the movie and the characters they play, which helps explain the strong reaction the film produced in Hollywood.

Very nice, well worth watching.


Children of men

January 10, 2007

Children of men

Children of men is without a doubt the best movie I’ve seen in a while. It is also the most powerful. I’ve read comparisons to Come and see, which I haven’t seen yet, so I now have it in my Netflix queue. It may not be perfect, but I am not sure there are many examples of perfection anywhere and, really, I have nothing to criticize here. I waited for a while for this movie since I first saw the trailer, and I must say it was a most worthwhile wait.

On the surface a science-fiction story about a near future where women cannot bear children and so humanity is slowly waiting to die out, Children of men is really about our very troubled present of intolerance, greed and war. Director Alfonso Cuarón has been asked in interviews why he didn’t explain in greater detail how the infertility came to be. It is not true, he says, and not the point, at the end it doesn’t matter, that is not what the movie is about. In another interview (see here), Cuarón says that “In the end, Children of men isn’t so much about humanity being destructive—it’s more about ideologies coming between people’s judgment and their actions.”

Cuarón, who also co-wrote the script, displays incredible technical expertise; there are several long and difficult scenes filmed in a single shot, there is also density of information, which is the best term I’ve come up with to describe what I see as scenes where different types of information are conveyed simultaneously by different means (newspaper clips, television images, people talking), a great alternative to the dreaded exposition. Another excellent example of density in this sense is found in the TV series Lost.

Children of men also looks beautiful, although perhaps this is a strange word to use in the context of the very ugly and mean future it describes. With great work by the main leads, a solid script and incredible cinematography, this is one of the most, if not the most, haunting and interesting films of 2006. (Though, of course, I imagine the much inferior Babel will fair better at the Oscars.)