After the Rain | 雨あがる

13 04 2015

 

rain

Winner of the Japanese Academy Award, After the Rain is a 1999 film based on the last script by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, filmed and produced after the director’s passing while the film was still in preproduction.

The entire action takes place during the Samurai era, in the countryside when a group of people gets stranded in an inn during a heavy rain. Roads are washed off, travel becomes off-limits and so the world slows down while the unwilling participants get to pass the time together in a small and now crowded space at this outpost of civilization. Nothing is the word.

But things do happen.

The protagonist gets to grow over the sequel of unexpected events, the supporting characters get to create a meaningful canvas at the backdrop of which the entire plot gets to come to its resolution. And the audience gets to watch the ever unique exploration of human nature, Akira Kurosawa’s signature in cinematography.

There’s something intangible about the director’s spirit being so carefully preserved throughout the entire film. Each scene as if breathes Kurosawa, his vision being laid out in front of millions of human eyes who get to witness the  magic one more time. Kurosawa always aims at the unseen, the ephemeral, that ultimate fabric that connects humanity – in a variety of very telling situations in which actions speak louder than words.

After the Rain does not contain too many dialogues – but it does however contain many scenes where words become  obsolete. Through showing – not telling – the storyteller’s original idea comes to life when entrusted with the masters of Japanese cinema. And in that, Kurosawa’s ideal lives on.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2015. All rights reserved.

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FILM

6 05 2013

Der_Untergang_-_Poster DOWNFALL (2004)

It is customary in many countries to watch WWII movies during the first week of May, thus commemorating the atrocities that took place now over 70 years ago.
In those movies, the tragedy is kept alive, being brought on screens – to preserve the memories, to remind of the warnings, to hope that the same never happens again.

In 2004, Germany produced DOWNFALL (Der Untergang), focusing on the life of a young woman who becomes Hitler’s secretary not long before Berlin is taken by the Russian Army.

The film is made in the best story telling tradition, with a typical and recognizable German attention to detail. Some scenes are artistically over-dramatized, to enhance the impact the tragedy had on people involved in it, and their descendants. Not an easy task, perhaps, but Germany did it again, and did it well. Is it the need to rehabilitate itself that drives German cinematography to the highest production quality when it comes to a WWII movie? Whatever the reason, due diligence was done in creating historically accurate and believable characters, and emotionally honest scenes that sort of imprint, visually, the statements of truth.

A special comment needs to be made on the brilliant performance of Bruno Ganz in the role of Adolf Hitler. Playing one of the most complex and dark villains in human history is not a walk in a park. Certainly, Bruno Ganz did well in studying his role and making sure the image he created is not stereotypical, but very much correct, exact to the point of body language and Hitler’s nervous tics. That is a very scary thing to do for a film actor – getting under the skin of such an evil figure, penetrating inside his mind, staying in this dark character for the duration of production, living with the after-taste. Undoubtedly, Ganz succeeded in bringing Hitler from the past closer to us today – and in that, there’s a certain element of horror, subtle, perhaps not immediately recognized, but apparent after a moment of contemplation. What we, normal people, like to believe, is that evil is not natural, not human and must, therefore, be explained by some sort of anomaly, disease, mental condition…. How many biographers dissected Hitler’s personality? How much literature has been written on his personalia? Well, that all becomes irrelevant when a living, breathing tirant is addressing the audience, comfortably sitting in soft chairs of cinema theaters. Bruno Ganz’s performance made a very powerful point – Hitler was a human being, sane and smart and if not for his monstrous side, he could have been a next door neighbor. Humanity shows in his patient attitude, his caring smile, his compassionate speech…. Only we know that that is the most incredible of lies. Realization that Hitler is one of us is definitely the toughest truth anyone could ever want to deal with.

DOWNFALL is also built on dialogues with evergreen and characteristic statements, designed to make us think, analyze, go deeper into the human soul. WWII is the ugliest of all human tragedies, it still affects generations, and its impact is still felt worldwide. When the film’s main character leaves falling Berlin behind, she does not depart empty handed – with her, she takes the emotional trauma of her nation, memories that will haunt her and pain that will trouble her for decades after.

We’re still dealing with consequences of WWII, with mysteries and cover-ups, seeking absolution and redemption, but the resolution has yet to come.

Watch DOWNFALL Trailer on Youtube

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.





FILM

7 08 2012
Big Man Japan

Big Man Japan (2007) is a very peculiar kind of movie. Very traditional and very Japanese, in a sense that the refined feel of the human presence and the environment is rather innerving.

The movie starts off as a documentary footage, slowly moving forward to the essence. This suspense is what makes this film a tangible experience.

The main character – Masaru Daisato – appears like a normal man who tells the story of his everyday life. Maybe he is a little out there, but other than that nothing extraordinary, if not for his ability to become very, very big. And he needs electricity to do that.

In Big Man Japan, the country needs protection from weird creatures. Who are they, where do they come from? I guess it’s up to us, viewers, to speculate about their origin and purpose. But in the movie the big man zaps himself and grows to an incredible height – so as to defeat the evil entities.

Not to spoil the pleasure of watching this mockumentary, one thing needs to be said – Big Man Japan is a parody on the modern society, it incorporates many elements of today’s Japanese society and culture, and in a subtle way hints to the state of society globally.

Entertaining in a very cunning manner, the film has an unusual format with inclusion of classic monster scenes, black & white footage and recognizable Japanese humor. Plain fun to watch.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

Big Man Japan Official Trailer





FILM

1 07 2012

THE WHITE COUNTESS

Nearly a century old political tragedy brings two people together amidst events of a catastrophic magnitude. This is the setting of The White Countess (2005), a pure and genuinely beautiful love story, embroidered onto the distorted canvas of history.

So many plots like this, developing at times of a crisis… The White Countess differs because it opens up a door into a very much unknown world for many. Russian émigré, nobility in exile, forced to abandon everything they knew and loved, and find a new existence, new purpose of life elsewhere.

For too many families this meant painful separation, loss and even brutal death of their loved ones. And for many families today, this means an endless search for roots, collecting tidbits of data from archives of which large parts are missing.

The White Countess is a heartwarming story of an incredible woman who lost everything and had to rely on her wits to make a living in nearly impossible conditions, and an American businessman with a challenging disability, wealthy and influential, wishing to fulfill his dream of a gentle creature from another world, a woman who becomes his soul mate.

An exploration of human nature is perhaps the most exciting journey one can take, and the most unpredictable one. And that is in fact the essence of this film, and how for one lucky guy his longing becomes his reality.

 

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

View Official Movie Trailer on Youtube





FILM

17 06 2012

The Jackie Robinson Story

Before Martin Luther King put his life to service and a nationwide fight for civil rights, there was Jackie Robinson, a man of a humble appearance, a great athletic talent and  with the lion’s heart.

Featuring the legendary baseball player’s life story, the biopic The Jackie Robinson Story, produced in 1950 by Jewel Pictures and revived in color in 2005 by 20th Century Fox, is a cinematographic antiquity, but its message does not lose actuality till this very day.

Though the film does not unveil many circumstances and events of Jackie’s life and activism, it does bring out his personality and due to one fact alone that Jackie starred in the film playing himself – and doing the job quite well – the film carries historical value. Owing  to the brilliant performance of Minor Watson whose role of Brooklyn Dodgers’ president Branch Rickey required him to be convincing as a believer in the democratic character of baseball as a universal sport, and as such alien to any form of discrimination and racism, the film made history. The lines Watson had to say in one of the scenes advocating for equality in sport are now epic.

Quite linear – what could be expected of a biographic film – The Jackie Robinson Story is best seen in its original black and white format; that’s a sure way to feel the flavor of the 50s, to dive into the atmosphere of the time and walk with Jackie Robinson till his monumental victory on that baseball field some sixty years ago.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

 





FILM

5 06 2012

The Lightkeepers

Starring Richard Dreyfuss and Tom Wisdom, The Lightkeepers (2009) is a very light, indeed, romantic comedy with a sweet flavor. When a young son of a British multimillionaire throws himself overboard a steamer somewhere in the vicinity of Cape Cod in 1912, little does he know that a new chapter in his life is about to begin. But first, he meets the light keeper.

Two men –  fussy and paranoid due to his respectful age Atkins and young dashing John Brown, call themselves ‘women haters’ and attribute many of their misfortunes to the presence of women in their lives. And so they strive to avoid them all together, protecting their self-inflicted paradise that has become the downtown joke.

Only the men’s little idyll is not destined to remain forever. Two women walk – or, shall we say, drive on a horse and carriage – into their isolated habitat, seeking quiet vacation at the beach near the lighthouse. However, what they find there is far from quiet.

Written and directed by Daniel Adams, this brilliant, refreshing comedy is played with the authenticity of the century old cultural heritage – so nicely done are the dialogues, the body language, the facial expressions and the characters’ costumes, the setting and their vivacious joyful manner of going about their daily business. The film demonstrates the importance of proper casting, as well as attention to detail in each scene.

In contrast to the recent trend in cinema and the demand for dramatic shocker-action films, The Lightkeepers is a delightful nuisance, serene, dynamic and entertaining.

For lovers of the English language and culture, this film is a real treat that doesn’t wear off its freshness after many a time.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

Official Trailer of The Lightkeepers (2009)





FILM

25 03 2012

THE ISLAND

The Island was released in 2006. Directed by Pavel Lungin, a talented Russian film maker, the movie has a carefully thought through cast as an essential component to its very texture, starring Pyotr  Mamonov, for whom the role of father Anatoli is nearly autobiographical.

Smooth and delicate, The Island was filmed according to the best standards of modern cinematography. With technical aspects so well perfected, the film allows to concentrate on its main theme, its spiritual message. For viewers coming from other backgrounds than Russian Orthodox, the film opens up a door, a very wide door, into the world of intimate and authentic spirituality, unique and non-existent anywhere else outside Russia – a perfect opportunity to explore.

The plot is quite simple, and therefore so tragic. A soldier’s war crime becomes his sin, the sin that he cannot forgive himself, although he seems to be pardoned by the highest authority. The soldier becomes a monk, and a monk becomes the healer, the one for many lost souls on the vast territories of a wild and untamed country, the one for the confused and the desperate. Father Anatoli draws from his unlimited faith in God, his devotion and desire to please God through service, and his ability to see beyond the unseen, to know what is hidden from the eyes of common people. Why him, why is he chosen? There are no answers, only more questions. Aren’t we all chosen, aren’t we all recipients of the message – in different times and at different altitudes and frequencies?

People come and go, the monastery and the monks are still there, and so is the healer – at least for a while – and perhaps there’s so much to learn from many canonical books and prayers in those books, but The Island in the end makes only one point – know thyself.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

The Island in IMDb

Official Trailer








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