Sunday, 5 April 2015

Visual & Sound Diary: The Tree of Life (2012)

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. 
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.

The experience of watching a Terrence Malick film is a visceral one, akin to being immersed in dream. What Malick endeavours to achieve in the making of a film is not to craft a satisfying, insightful narrative, but rather to capture a sensation, an atmosphere.  Ever ambiguous, sparse on dialogue, captivating in both its visuals and enticing use of sound-mixing, The Tree of Life is a revelation. Malick, in abandoning the standards of conventional storytelling, leaves much to the free interpretation of the viewer. Afflicted with poetic and philosophical ambitions, the film depicts a middle-aged man searching through his childhood memories, grappling with the death of his younger brother and his tumultuous relationship with his parents. However, this is a deceptively simple synopsis - the film is beyond description: it is a sprawling exploration of life's meaning, of evolution, humanity, an aesthetic vision of epic proportions. Fluid and strange, the feature drifts momentously in its narrative scope, from the deeply personal introspection of a childhood recollection to the grand imagery of the birth and evolution of living creatures.

Malick's vision is largely achieved due to the transcendent craftsmanship of celebrated cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and the experimental efforts of special effects master Douglas Trumball. Many of the evolution sequences are generated not by computer manipulation  but through the speculative use of liquid chemicals, smoke and fluorescents as Trumball once did with science-fiction greats 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind  and The Blade Runner. The fluid, aerobic camera-work principal to the construction of the reverie optimises the use of framing using doorways, light manipulation and silhouettes. The film is furthered by the ethereal score, marvellously composed by Alexandre Desplat, a haunting operatic representation of the feature's grand scope.

Friday, 3 April 2015

P.S. Nightcrawler

A terse, intelligent, fast-paced thriller, Nightcrawler dazzles its audience with modern visuals of metropolitan lights and vivid crime scenes, and the intense, jarring dialogue between intriguing characters of elaborate eccentricities. The feature is no doubt elevated by an acutely harrowing yet captivating performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, whom is beyond recognition as the neurotic, psychopathic camerman, crazed by ambition. Nightcrawler entails the relentless endeavours of Los Angeles thief, Louis Bloom, as he develops a skill for capturing valuable footage of crimes and accidents around the city. Bloom plays into the game of news footage sale, establishing relationships with news director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo), rival freelance cameraman Joe Lader (Bill Paxton) and his naïve, underpaid assistant Rick Carey (Riz Ahmed). Gyllenhaal's performance as "Lo"signals his most attentive, provoking work since Donnie Darko, a true and indisputable return to form. Lo is man afflicted by a borderline animalistic desire for accomplishment, plagued by a shocking, lurid moral ambiguity. The admirable precision in which the character is portrayed, is the feature's most striking feature. By some disappointing contrast, the film manages only to imply the compelling attributes of its curious supporting acts, but inherently fails to dive into their motivations, only a shallow understanding of the characters capable of being achieved by the audience. It is the believability of Nightcrawler's story arc which risks the loss of viewers approval - the film at times strangely absurd, credibility momentarily sacrificed for entertainment value.