Friday, 26 September 2014


Boyhood is a milestone in cinematic achievement. Director Richard Linklater has captured the simple, unadulterated poetry of mundane life. The feature achieves the spectacular. It provokes you to feel, appreciate, reminisce, yearn, understand, accept. Within a period of 166 minutes be prepared to feel overwhelming nostalgia, aching melancholy, simple elation and an inherent satisfaction that it all happened. Thought-provoking beyond measure, the feature is a cinematic revelation, an allusive celebration of life and family. Boyhood is perhaps the most personal, accessible film ever to grace to the cinemas this decade, hell this century. Emotional extortion and dramatic orchestration of events is entirely forgone. Instead Linklater has shown a modern audience that real life is already full and extraordinary and noteworthy as it is. Boyhood provides reflection, insight and simple showcase of the completely ordinary growth of one young boy. We can only watch in awe as we are touched with the familiarity, accuracy and honesty of its portrayal. 

As with most of Linklater's features, Boyhood is uncontrovertibly without plot. Instead, lives are lived, lessons are learned, hearts are broken, memories are created, forged, treasured, forgotten and nostalgia runs wild. We watch the steady, subtle, entirely natural progression of a young family and in particular Mason Evans, Jr (Ellar Coltrane). We witness the growth of one boy's skewed vision and the significant experiences of his young life which in collaborative magic produce a naïve yet ambitious and insightful young man. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Visual & Sound Diary: Atonement (2007)

Visual & Sound Diary is a weekly feature where I explore a chosen film of distinctive cinematography and musical composition via the score, soundtrack and stills. This is how it works: click play on the link supplied of the selected music and scroll through the images. Be reminded and inspired of the cinematic splendour. 
Note: the last shot is my pick for the best shot.

Joe Wright is one of the finest, most understated contemporary directors currently working. Atonement is surely the prolific film-makers crowning achievement, among a rich (although short) resumé of flawless period dramas. The film boasts one of the most affecting scores of this decade by Italian composer Dario Marianelli. The ingenious masterstroke of the score is its symbolic correspondence with story elements - the integration of typewriter noises and the strong voices of an army chorus. The moving compositions of the war sequences are breathtakingly elegant. In particular is the streamlined 4-minute shot of the British invasion of Dunkirk. Presented in this shot is the greatest treasure of the score: the elaborate, melancholias Elegy for Dunkirk (featured below) - an epic and chilling musical arrangement. 

Each frame of the film is beautifully saturated without ever looking forged or synthetic - the colour contrasts are appropriately dazzling, the cinematography most distinct in its range. Many of the iconic images from the film, the fountain, the room, the lake and the typewriter are featured below. The film is structured in a most intriguing manner, the first half occurring in real time over the course of one day. The second half of the feature examines the resounding impact the events occurring on that one day have on the rest of their lives.  It's a story of a young girl's imagination, the thin line between realities and dreams, of consequences, remorse, of war, of lust and pride and above all, a desire for Atonement. 

Shooting Location: The UK - Redcar, Streatham Hill, south London, Stokesay Court & Grimsby 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Visual & Sound Diary: Days of Heaven (1978)

Visual & Sound Diary is a weekly feature where I explore a chosen film of distinctive cinematography and musical composition via the score, soundtrack and stills. This is how it works: click play on the link supplied of the selected music and scroll through the images. Be reminded and inspired of the cinematic splendour. 
Note: the last shot is my pick for the best shot.

Terence Malick's signature ambiguity is prevalent in his second 70s feature, Days of Heaven. The trademarks of his artistry are most apparent: the spareness of dialogue, focus on movement and sound, the eerie sets of montages and ultimately, that dreamy quality of which no other director seems to be able to capture quite as well. Days of Heaven boasts the stunning, raw cinematography of Néstor Alendros - a film artist whose love affair with natural light is blatantly obvious. Alendros' iconic shot of the storm of cicadas descending on the farm is, I dare say, imprinted in the minds of nearly every cinephile. The selection of Saint-Saëns' "The Carnival of Animals" is a masterstroke - it's appropriately sinister, spirited, haunting and disconnected from reality. 

The performances of Malick's films are never central to the feature itself. Take The Tree of Life for instance, Jessica Chaistain and Brad Pitt's performances were flawless, exceptional representations and facilitators of the film's subject matter but never important enough to warrant awards attention. It's Malick's craftsmanship and auteur vision which shines through and garners the most attention. Likewise, Days of Heaven leads Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard and Linda Manz provide sublime, understated representations but nonetheless it is Malick's collective reverie that becomes the real marvel. 

Shooting Location: The US - Whiskey Gap, Alberta & Heritage Park Historical Village, Calgary 

Monday, 15 September 2014

P.S. Begin Again

With Once, director John Carney graced us with a piece although technically raw, emotionally rich and refreshingly pure and simple. His latest film, a music flick from which many parallels can be drawn with Once, carries the same easy charm and it too stands as an invigorating departure from conventional rom-com standards. Begin Again is a look at the place and influence of music in the lives of two New-Yorkers: an uninspired executive record producer, Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo), and young songwriter, Gretta (Kiera Knightley), fresh off a break-up with her once musical partner and long-term boyfriend, David Kohl (Adam Levine), also a successful musician. One encounters the other and the result is the stellar production of music, by two people who need it most. Where Begin Again hits the spot is in identifying music for what it is - a wholesome escapism from ugly, compromising, disappointing realities. The feature is simply a wonderfully controlled piece with an understated New York setting, upheld by naturalistic characters, light prepossessing tunes and small touches of visual magic. Never is the feature cloyingly sentimental and whilst it falls somewhat short of the allure Once held, Begin Again is flagrantly original and well-meaning. This is light-hearted mainstream cinema at its best: absent is the standard oversimplification of plot, emotional exploitation and poorly placed romance. In its place we have a sweet flick which is, quite literally, music to our ears. 


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

P.S. The Two Faces of January

A tight, stylish Hitchockian thriller, The Two Faces of January relies heavily not on superficially staged action sequences but nuanced character studies and a consistently intriguing story. The two male leads, Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac, made for a compelling duo - the dynamics of their relationship endlessly evolving, shifting, reaching into darker, more formidable depths. The trust between them thinning, then waning and then growing, pulled back-and-forth, confusing the audience but in a clever, intended fashion which is wholly realistic and competently portrayed. The characters are created so that empathy for them travels through the audience. Yes, our interests are securely invested - and then the director begins to toy with out emotions. However, Kirsten Dunst seemed unreasonably strained in her role. She provided criminally devout performances in Melancholia, The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette but her character in this feature was truly lost on me. I recognised her iconic traits and her representation of Colette was not without new material. Dunst possesses irrefutable flexibility and variety (usually) but she was without a doubt ill-fitted to the role. 
Beyond this however, the feature's setting is intensely attractive - you've got the ever-present green-grey waters of Greek terrain, the occasional ruin, a bleak European rural town. Cinematography reaches close vicinity of optimum use for the striking, natural beauty of the filming location. The opening shot is graceful and stunning and as the film progresses cinematographer Marcel Zyskind's artistry never falters.