Archive for the cinema Category

Review – Brighton Rock (2010)

Posted in cinema, mod, movie posters, reviews/opinions with tags , on February 7, 2012 by reccaphoenix

Recca’s note: Sorry for the paucity of reviews and posts lately.  I’ve been in law school, which basically means no time for anything, especially not watching films.  I’ve also just been lazy.  When I’m exhausted, I can only stomach light comedic television nowadays.  That being said, I just got Hulu Plus last year (Netflix drove me away) and they have a large selection of Criterion films.  So expect something periodically in the future.  I’ve been on a bit of documentary kick lately, though, and I highly recommend The Eyes of Tammy Faye.  Anyhow, I can’t say no to a mod movie review (the specialty of this blog), and when the mod remake of Brighton Rock presented itself on BBC iPlayer the other day, I had to watch it.  So on to the review!

Brighton Rock (2010, UK) dir. Rowan Joffe

I saw the original Brighton Rock (1947) a few years ago on film and fell in love with it.  When I heard that there was a remake in the works both based more on the novel AND set in mod-infested 1964 Brighton, I squealed fangirl squeals of delight.  I picked up the Brighton Rock novel by Graham Greene right away and while reading it, imagined how the remake would transfer the plot into the mod era.

So, naturally, I was quite excited to see this film.  Overall, it’s a solid watch, though it is not without its issues.  I am inevitably going to make a few comparisons with the original film which, though excellent, is also not without its issues, so please bear with me in that regard.  I would highly recommend viewing both (in any order) as well as reading the novel (if you’re into crime novels with a twist of Catholic subtext).

The plot concerns a young gang leader named Pinkie, who struggles against an established mob run by Corleone (played brilliantly in this adaptation by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame).  When Fred Hale gets caught between the two gangs, Pinkie has to murder him.  A young waitress named Rose becomes the only remote witness to Fred Hale’s “disappearance” and Pinkie starts up a relationship with her to keep her quiet.  Both of them are Catholics, which figures into the plot extensively.  In the meantime, busybody good-time girl Ida (who in this adaptation also runs the cafe where Rose works and is played by the great Helen Mirren) becomes interested in the mystery and will stop at nothing to make sure Pinkie is caught.

The most interesting part of the story, in my opinion, is the relationship between Pinkie and Rose.  This part of the story is what the 2010 adaptation excels at portraying.  Rose is a little bit overacted in the 1947 version and I tended to pity her less in that adaptation.  Rose is far more dimensional in the new film.

The new film sticks to the novel in some ways more than the 1947 film, but it’s a little superficial.  Characters are condensed (Ida and the cafe owner) and changed, along with the time period.  While this largely works, I found Ida to be the weakest character in the new film, while she was far more interesting in the 1947 version and in the novel.  Helen Mirren’s Ida is too serious and comes off as pretty boring overall.  The shorter length of the film may be to blame, but she barely gets involved and the tension surrounding her investigations has little time to develop.  Kudos to the new film for expounding on the Brighton Rock candy metaphor, a central feature of the novel’s plot.

The cinematography in the 1947 film is far more interesting and black-and-white lends itself to the gangster film noir atmosphere of the plot a bit better.  The 2010 film is well shot, but it can never beat the fantastic murder scenes in the original.  Interestingly enough, the ending of this film is shot-for-shot an homage to the 1947 version.  Color does help capture the mod world quite well, though, and I loved the use of colors in Rose’s clothing throughout the film.

I really appreciated that this film didn’t become complete mod-sploitation.  That being said, a few of the “mod moments” felt a little bit forced, such as when Rose goes shopping.  The scene where Pinkie dresses in the full mod kit – fishhooked parka sleeves included – is pure mod porn.  These scenes didn’t detract from the film as a whole, though (and I rather enjoyed most of them, being a mod myself).  These moments fit the plot – Pinkie seems to be a bit of a mod, and he steals a scooter and uses a mod disguise to escape into the crowd.  However, mods are notoriously picky and even I, not hardcore by any means, found a few issues.  Some of the men had more “freakbeat era” long haircuts which you probably wouldn’t see in 1964, and a few of the girls had more mid-60s Carnaby-type dresses as well.  This is ‘pop culture’ mod, but it doesn’t fit the time period.  I also spotted some older people as extras in the scooter parade scene, which is also completely inconsistent with the era (although I bet those old-timers were glad to be in the scene…it probably reminded them of their youth).  On a positive note, the Brighton mod riots add a fascinating new dimension to the film’s thematic focus on the conflict between young and old (Pinkie vs. Corleone, Rose vs. Ida, mod rebels vs. Brighton businesses).

I appreciate the risks taken in this adaptation, and unlike most adaptations of great films, I enjoyed it and could easily re-watch it.  Again, though, while Rose came across better in this film, I miss the Pinkie and Ida in the ’47 film, and the murder scenes that shone in the original can’t be matched.  I find myself in the odd position of recommending both films.  They are both fun to watch and look great.  I especially recommend the new film for fellow mods (let’s face it, this is the closest thing to another ‘Quadrophenia’ that we’re going to get in this decade).  I hope the film sparks another revival (we need one!)

(chants) We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, we are the mods…..

Sorry, I got carried away there.  Check out both films….and/or read the novel!

–Recca 2/7/12

Rating (2010 film): 7/10

Trailer:  http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi4823321/

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Manyoshu and Kokinshu art films

Posted in cinema, japan, video with tags , , , , , , , on July 30, 2011 by reccaphoenix

Made for a premodern Japanese literature class by me and my friends. Our project (3 separate films) translated poems from the Kokinshu, Manyoshu, and Shinkokinshu (3 Japanese poetry anthologies) into the content and visual styles of our films.  Unfortunately I have lost the Shinkokinshu film file.

See my friend Susannah’s Kokinshu film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlwGXFiapQE

My main influences here were Antonioni’s ‘Red Desert’ and ‘Blow-Up.’ I tried to reflect the ambiguous yet simple voice in the Manyoshu poems in a cinematic style reminiscent of Italian Neorealism.

Concept, Cinematography, Direction, Production – Recca Phoenix
Boy – An Hoang
Girl – Susannah Davidson

Edited in iMovie
Titles edited in Final Cut Pro

(c) 2007 Reccalux

Liberty Eyes – my experimental film

Posted in animation, cinema, movie posters, video with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2011 by reccaphoenix

I now present the blogosphere debut of Reccalux’s greatest film to date: my experimental collage animation “Liberty Eyes”.

My main stylistic influence was Ken Jacobs.

My film examines colonialism and its aftereffects in Ghana via handpainted movie posters and Nana Agyemang Ofosu’s poem “Virgin Liberty”. It also comments on cultural “dumping”. “Liberty Eyes” screened at the UC Berkeley Pacific Film Archive in 2010 as part of the Film And Video Makers At Cal program “Fleshed Out.”

Empty Spaces and the Post-Something Worlds of Moebius

Posted in anime, cinema, music with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by reccaphoenix

Famed French comics artist Moebius (Jean Giraud), who elevated comics to a high art, wrote Arzach in 1975.  It tells the story of a lone silent man flying around a post-something world of ancient technology atop a pterodactyl.  I have not read Arzach, but I saw many images from it at a Moebius exhibit in the Kyoto Manga Museum.  Ever since then, I have discovered multiple connections (intentional or not) to Moebius’ empty post-something landscape.

source: wikipedia

First of all, a real connection exists between Arzach and Hayao Miyazaki‘s manga (and later movie) Nausicäa of the Valley of Wind.  The manga version of Nausicäa highly resembles French comics far more than conventional Japanese manga.  It has similar motifs of post-disaster decay, a future world, emptiness, and flying, along with the “ancient technology” feel.  Miyazaki has even cited Moebius as an influence on this work.

squiggly tentacle grass in Arzach

Nausicäa walks on squiggly "grass" made of Ohm tentacles

And lastly, the arbitrary connection – Yes’s album Fragile. The cover and interior artwork by Roger Dean evokes a similar feeling, and even features an “ancient technology” flying machine.

Fragile by Yes (source: wikipedia)

Arzach flying

interior artwork of Fragile

Nausicäa in the desert

2nd interior artwork of Fragile

Nausicäa in the toxic forest (note background)

Nausicäa's greenhouse

The music itself as well contributes to the feeling of an empty landscape.  “Roundabout,” while its lyrics are hard to decipher, seems to tell of love in hardship, and “South Side of the Sky” features wind sound effects and mentions snowstorms and other natural hazards. The harmonies and vocals in many of the songs also hint at something ancient.  Furthermore, the electronic elements and beats resemble Nausicäa‘s soundtrack.

Nausicäa: Ohmu to Boso

Fragile: Heart of the Sunrise

Fragile: Cans and Brahms

Nausicäa: Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa

Fragile: Roundabout

I highly recommend listening to Fragile in its entirety; it’s a superb album by one of the founding bands of British progressive rock and features some killer bass work and Rick Wakeman’s fantastic synthesizer riffs.

The airships on the back cover of Fragile even bring to mind the airships in Nausicäa.

back cover of Fragile

Nausicäa flies to an airship

Unfortunately, this connection fails to indicate the direct influence of Moebius, as the album was completed 4 years before Arzach.  I suppose, though, that one can cite 1970s fantasy and sci-fi artwork (think Heavy Metal magazine, etc.) as the common influence on both works, though.  And as for the Nausicäa connection… who knows what Joe Hisaishi was listening to when he composed the film’s soundtrack?

-Recca 2/17/11

My PERSONAL Tops of the Decade (TV, Film, Video Games and Music)

Posted in cinema, music, nostalgia, reviews/opinions, television on October 25, 2010 by reccaphoenix

It being 2010 now, everyone’s doing the whole retrospective thing.  I am SO unqualified to do this as a “best by some aesthetic standard” list, because I wasn’t really old enough to have a good critical eye/ear when the decade began, and because there’s just so much out there that I simply haven’t seen.  I’m just going to go with my personal favorites – the things I enjoy a lot, whether they’re “lasting greats” or not – of the noughties.  So no flaming.

And by the way, these lists were very hard to narrow down.  There were a lot that *nearly* made it (and probably would make it if I revised these lists) but I had to draw the line somewhere.  Unfortunately.

Best Films – doesn’t include re-releases, restorations, or sequels.  I’m only going with one from each major director/animation studio as well (because otherwise this list would be 60% Pixar films…)

  1. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (dir. Peter Weir, USA 2003) This movie has everything – great characters, AMAZING sound design and editing, great sets, a thrilling story, wonderful suspense, a beautiful soundtrack, and lots of great naval battles.  Every time I watch it, it gets better, and in my opinion it holds up as well as another historical epic, my #2 favorite movie of all time, Lawrence of Arabia.  God damn, this is a good movie.  Definitely my favorite to come out of this decade, no question.
  2. Ratatouille (Pixar, USA 2007) If I have to pick just one Pixar film for this top-10, then it has to be this one.  It has a great soundtrack, great dialogue, lots of fun and humor, and timelessly beautiful settings.  The sheer amount of detail and love put into this film is just astounding, and it’s a film that not only blew me away the first time I saw it, but actually got better with repeat viewings.  And I just love how the end credits are done in traditional animation – Pixar isn’t losing touch with their roots, that’s for sure.  Bravo for proving CGI animation worthy in my eyes, Pixar.
  3. Millenium Actress (dir. Satoshi Kon, Japan 2001) A great film that makes amazing use of both the film medium and the animated film medium, and one of the best and most interesting examples of “postmodernism” I’ve ever seen.  Most people prefer Kon’s other 2000s film Paprika, but this one speaks to me more as a film buff so I had to pick it over Paprika.  The film jumps through Japanese history, Japanese cinema history (and a bit of anime history too, one could argue), the history of the main character’s acting career, as well as the progress of her romantic pursuits.  It takes a lot of skill to tell so many story threads in one film without losing the audience.  Did I mention that the entire film is framed in a sort of meta-film documentary as well?  This is one impressive film, and if it sounds confusing – surprisingly, it’s not – it’s pretty easy to follow, although knowing about Japanese history and Japanese film helps.
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (dir. Peter Jackson, USA 2001) This, in my opinion, is a modern-day revival of the old epics of the ’50s and ’60s.  I have to give Peter Jackson and WETA a huge tip o’ the hat for using a lot of REAL stuff and not just reverting to CGI entirely, and for having the bollocks to knock out a generally faithful and highly entertaining adaptation of what is arguably the greatest fantasy series out there.  This film is just so…dense….with awesome and detail, kind of like the old Star Wars films, that it’s great to watch again and again.
  5. The Triplets of Belleville (dir. Sylvain Chomet, France/Belgium/UK/Canada 2003) A triumph of unconventional animation and retro style weirdness that one wouldn’t expect to find in this decade.  There’s almost no talking in this film, which is an achievement in itself.  It’s surreal, funny, crazy, and reminds me of political cartoons.  Plus, it has a great soundtrack, and some amusing stereotypes of French and American people.  The CGI may be a bit odd in parts, but the film is still pretty damn awesome.
  6. No Country For Old Men (dir. Cohen Bros., USA 2007) A modern-day suspense classic.  The acting and sound design are top-notch, and the story is riveting.  I think the reason they gave Javier Bardem’s character that silly haircut was to take the edge off his otherwise-terrifying character…and to prove that even someone with that haircut could be totally scary.  He’s an amazing actor.  But anyhow, since I can only pick one Cohen movie for my favorite of the decade, it’s this one.
  7. The Cat Returns and Spirited Away (Studio Ghibli, Japan 2002, 2001) It’s a tie between these two.  The Cat Returns didn’t get a very wide release, and I honestly like it just as much as Spirited Away (which DID get a huge release and tons of press – it was the first Ghibli film that a lot of Americans saw, thanks to Ghibli’s deal with Disney – although its Buena Vista affiliation generated some pretty lame English voice talent and translation, though it could be far worse).  Both of these films, and Ghibli films in general, are so beautiful, fun, and magical.  And both are thematically similar, dealing with a “real world” girl being transported into an alternate reality populated by non-humans.
  8. School of Rock (dir. Richard Linklater, USA 2003)
  9. Angel-A (dir. Luc Besson, France 2005)
  10. Amelie (dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France 2001)

*honourable mention: Casino Royale was just edged off the list – it deserves at least a shout-out if nothing else.  Also, I only just saw Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story which was utterly hilarious and also deserves a shout-out, as does The Princess and the Frog for getting back to what Disney does right, and Inglourious Basterds for being downright awesome, good old-fashioned Nazi-killin’ ultraviolent fun.*

Best Television Series – doesn’t include re-runs or “remixes” (ála Dragonball Kai).  No TV movies – only miniseries and series.  I’m being unfair here and including spinoffs and sequel series, if they occur separately and not just as extra seasons of the same show.

  1. Life on Mars (BBC, UK 2006-7)
  2. Top Gear (BBC, UK 2002-present)
  3. Ashes to Ashes (BBC, UK 2008-present)
  4. Cranford (BBC, UK 2007)
  5. South Park (Comedy Central, USA 1997-present)
  6. Samurai Jack (Cartoon Network, USA 2001-4)
  7. Flight of the Conchords (HBO, USA 2007-9)
  8. The Boondocks (Cartoon Network, USA 2005-present)
  9. Kino’s Journey (WOWOW, Japan 2003)
  10. Kingdom Hospital (ABC, USA 2004)

*honourable mention: Rome (it was pretty good but I never finished watching it, so I feel unqualified to judge it) and Doctor Who with David Tennant (because I’m a huge nerd)*

Best Video Games – doesn’t include re-releases of pre-2000 games unless they have been significantly altered. Only one game per franchise.

  1. Kingdom Hearts (Squaresoft, PS2, 2002)
  2. The Beatles: Rock Band (Harmonix, Wii/PS3/Xbox360, 2009)
  3. Black Jack Hinotori Hen (Sega, DS, 2007)
  4. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS remake) (Capcom, DS, 2005)
  5. Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (Square Enix, DS, 2007)
  6. Devil May Cry (Capcom, PS2, 2001)
  7. BioShock (2K Games, PS3/Xbox360/Mac/PC, 2007)
  8. Onimusha 3: Demon Siege (Capcom, PS2, 2005)
  9. WarioWare: Twisted! (Nintendo, GBA, 2004)
  10. Dynasty Warriors 4 (Koei, PS2, 2003)

*honourable mentions: Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance for GBA and King of Fighters 2000 for NeoGeo*

Is it just me or are “console exclusives” becoming increasingly rare these days?  Maybe it’s so the companies can make more money….

Best Albums – doesn’t include compilations or greatest hits collections, although I am counting remixes.  Only one album per artist.

  1. Guero (Beck, 2005)
  2. Love (The Beatles/George and Giles Martin, 2006)
  3. Employment (Kaiser Chiefs, 2005)
  4. Disney Bossa Nova (Various Artists, 2004)
  5. The Grey Album (DJ Danger Mouse [remixing Jay-Z and The Beatles], 2004)
  6. Friendly Fire (Sean Lennon, 2006)
  7. Demon Days (Gorillaz, 2005)
  8. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (Paul McCartney, 2005)
  9. Crescent (Gackt, 2003)
  10. 100 Days, 100 Nights (Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, 2007)

(top comics/manga of the decade to come later, perhaps)

Sorry, guys – I never really finished working on this ages ago but I decided to just publish it anyway for the heck of it.  Hope you enjoy the fragment 😛

Review: What’s New Pussycat (1965)

Posted in animation, cinema, mod, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , , on August 15, 2010 by reccaphoenix

What’s New Pussycat (1965, UK) 35mm, color, dir. Clive Donner & Richard Talmadge, written by Woody Allen

I’d been dying to see this one for a while.  I love Woody Allen’s films, my two favorite Peters (O’Toole and Sellers) are in this film, it’s from the ’60s, Tom Jones sings the theme, Burt Bacharach did the music, and Richard Williams (great animator) did the opening titles.  If you, like me, fell in love with Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia and wanted to see him in a film with some women, then….this is one for you.  At least it would be, if not for some major issues.  The many things I mentioned above make the film appealing on a cosmetic level but are not combined in the best way they could be.

This film concerns a great number of characters and love polygons, which I will try to sum up the best I can…showing one of the film’s weaknesses – too much going on.  But then again, it’s a kind of Continue reading

Review – Modesty Blaise (1966)

Posted in cinema, mod, movie posters, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , on April 3, 2010 by reccaphoenix

(heavy emphasis on the MOD in Modesty)

First of all, how could I not see this film?  It features two of my favorite actors of the ’60s, Monica Vitti (of Antonioni fame) and Terence Stamp (the attractive young idol of Swinging London and a damn fine actor – see my review of The Limey for one of his more recent works) in the leading roles, has some MODTASTIC architecture, costumes, and sets, a hip score, and action-packed espionage…. so, given the opportunity to Continue reading