Saturday, 31 October 2015

P.S. Sicario

Sicario is an assiduous, pulsating work of art, a graphic feature of inspired technical verve, tense and satisfying with rounded performances, charged dialogue and unusual utility of its lead character. With his latest feature, director Denis Villeneuve breaks into the main frame of action cinema - his previous efforts, Enemy, Prisoner and Incendies - terrific works easily overlooked by main audiences, a precursor to his most accomplished film of yet. Sicario, meaning "hitman" in Mexico, illustrates FBI agent Kate Macy's (Emily Blunt) rude awakening to the CIA's unorthodox methods of operation in utilising one drug lord to take down another.  The feature is brilliantly reminiscent of the the precision of A Most Violent Year and the technical nuance of the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men, with scene-stealing villain played by Benicio Del Toro, comparable to No Country's own Anton Schigurh. Although ebullient and masterly in its execution however, Sicario cannot be deemed faultless, ambiguity is intended in this feature but it almost oversimplifies its content and threatens to undermines its integrity.  The element of originality fades in and out, at times forsaken in place of entertainment. Ultimately, the feature identifies as a traditionally structure cartel movie with well-established genre traits presented in a superb tech package: components of aerial camera work perfectly complemented with a heavy, ominous score. Villeneuve creates in Sicario a film enigmatic, brash and beautifully unrelenting, far from inspired but prolific nonetheless.


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Visual & Sound Diary: In the Mood for Love (2001)

Wrapped in an illustrious blanket of dangerous colour and melody, In the Mood for Love is a dreamy cinematic escapade. Beauty drips from each intrepid detail as the camera glides about, intoxicating its audience with the appeal of intimacy devoid of touch, superseding not desire but sex. Aching in its lustful quality and tortuously enticing in its soft restraint, love is captured not within the limits of a melodramatic story, but fleshed out in all its rawness and urgency, allure buried thick in suggestion and movement. Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai's features are classically highly stylised works, appreciative of the paltry, transient quality of dialogue. Instead, he builds pictures resonant in their form, tone and feeling, rebelling against the standards of strongly narrative driven, 30-shots-per-minute sweeping romantic epics. Wong Kar-Wai reminds audiences of the intensity of emotion without event or tragedy. In the Mood for Love is set against the backdrop of a 1960s Hong Kong in an exiled, nostalgic Shanghainese community of narrow alleyways of walls of waxed posters, tiny, cluttered apartments and steaming noodle stalls by night. It tells the tentative tale of a man and women who move into neighbouring apartments with their spouses and grow close over respective suspicions of their partners' infidelity.

The exceptional qualities of the moving imagery are created of not one but two cinematographers: loyal collaborator Christopher Doyle responsible for the iconic slow-motion moving shots while the long shots detailed with fleeting beauties exhibit the handiwork of Taiwanese DoP Mark Lee Ping Bin. The distinctive styles of the filmmakers blend seamlessly into one. The seminal slow-motion montages are heightened by composer, Shigeru Umebayashi's, Yumeji's Theme, blatantly taken from Seijun Suzuki's 90s Japanese independent film, Yumeji. The reuse of an original score crafted for another movie entirely is almost unheard of, but when its cinema giant Wong Kar-Wai behind the camera, the rules of film shall bend. The result, of course, is only the making of a quintessential slow-motion sequence, a vibrant, elegant specimen studied to death at any film school. Drenched in the romance mystery nuance of Alfred Hitchock's Vertigo and the stream of consciousness quality of Andrei Tarkovsky's Mirror, the picture thrives on a consistent visual ambiguity which takes no pleasure or concessions in the idle or the pretentious. The spouses are seen only in silhouettes and heard as convenient voices, the man and woman are never shot in the same frame until the second half of the film. Emotional distance, variance and romantic longing are things to be visualised, not minimised to spoken word. Love has never been depicted so far from the sentimental yet so close to the tangible. Who would've suspected the most romantic film of the 21st century to be an ode to, of all forms of the love, the unrequited and unconsummated kind?