Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Films: Four Snippets on Inception, Love, Grass & Sorcerers

© 2010, All text by Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

Christopher Nolan's "Inception" (2010) is a masterpice of form, concept and design. It's an impressive display of visual and narrative complexities, even as it childishly fails in offering any social, philosophical or psychological substance. I particularly enjoyed several animated Escherian structures, the more or less consistent logic of the script, the stylish mis-en-scène and frame compositions, the excellent cinematography and camera movements, the expressive SFX, and the tightly calculated edit of the film. The skillful cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, and including Marion Cotillard, Joseph Godron-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger and the very intelligent Ellen Page, have all imbued their characters with as much humanity as the script would have allowed. Only if Ken Watanabe had worked more on his English enunciation, computer games had not permeated the vision of the director, and the music were not so disappointingly shallow yet pretentious.

"I Am Love" (Io Sono l'Amore, 2009)

This tightly budgeted Italian language film could have been almost the masterpiece it aspires to be had it fully lived up to Tilda Swinton's subtle, dedicated and sophisticated performance. The script revolves around the somewhat conflicting relationship between human-beings' spiritual and carnal needs, and our ongoing attempt at reconciling the two. To this end, the connection between love -- lust, passion -- and food is examined in an affair, which brews between a middle-aged woman and a young chef. While the story doesn't ignore the frying effects of disloyalty on the life of a woman married into an aristocratic family, it masterfully understands the individuality of its character and her right to exercise her chosen path. A suitable selection of compositions by John Adams, and a variety of Italian locales, and of course dishes, closely interact with the images, the plot, and the edit of the scenes. One could argue that an amateurish penchant for formalism and several predictable plot twists have taken away from the ultimate impact of this otherwise delicious film. But there is little doubt that this is the magic carpet that will carry Ms. Swinton to the Oscars, which she rightly deserves, and more.

"Wild Grass" (Les Herbes Folles, 2009) the latest work by the great French director, Alain Resnais eludes being easily captured in words. This is an extraordinarily beautiful, subtle, humane, poetic and genuinely sophisticated work of art and entertainment, in both form and content. This is evident from the very opening shots of the film -- an exotically mysterious gate; green grass protruding the cracks of the pavement -- with a composite emotional depth hardly anticipated from their constituent elements. The youthful energy and the effortless flow of the opening credits belie the age of the filmmaker (Mr. Resnais is 88), even as they establish the pace of the narrative and the visual rhythm of the entire film. The story explores the borderline of memroy and imagination, even as it examines that other notoriously fine line between love and obsession. Highly unpredictable throughout, an unexpected epilogue envelopes the precedings with still another layer of enigma -- or perhaps resolves some questions -- leaving the audience thinking, and thirsty for more. The performances and cinematography are admirable. Moreover, the music by Mark Snow is exceptionally sympathetic to the nuances of this visual poem, although one wishes digital samples of strings had not so often replaced the original acoustic instruments.

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (2010)

The end credits read that the story was "suggested" by a short animated film -- by which they clearly mean the memorable Mickey Mouse episode from Disney's "Fantasia" (1938). That animated short was synched to Paul Dukas's well known composition of the same name (in French), itself based on the original story by the German poet Goethe. The theme by Dukas is appropriately used in a central flood scene of the current film, complete with dancing mops and brooms, although Mickey himself is nowhere to be found. Overall, the film is a safe and sound work of magic entertainment, now a genre on its own, with satisfying performances by Nicholas Cage, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci, and the young Jay Balucher and Teresa Palmer. The music by Trevor Rabin is effectively engaged with the visual elements of the film, adding much energey to the dazzling SFX and CGI, a more or less imaginative script, and the consistently colorful scenic design of the work. However, notwithstanding the spectacle, what propels this work is the underlying theme of the coming of age of an adolescent, a fact reflected in director Jon Turteltaub's casting of the off-beat Balucher as the "apprentice", and in allowing many shots more time to develop than the currently dominant norms of the sci-fi or action genres would permit.

Payman Akhlaghi
07/28/2010, Los Angeles
© 2010, All text by Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.


Tinsel & Tine said...

Knowledgeable and succinct reviews done from the view point of a composer - Kudos! Like your blog!

Payman Akhlaghi ----- ( پیمان اخلاقی ) said...

Dear Tinsel & Tine,

Thank you for your kind words...

I had a quick look at your weblog, and found it very active and sincere. Will try to visit it more often.

Best, Payman